District 32 has a new attendance policy in 2018

Click here to view MSBA Policy JED on Attendance.

Click here to view MSBA Administrative Procedure JED-AP1 on Attendance.

Children can’t learn if they aren’t in class. Perry County School District 32 is reinforcing the importance of being in school with new attendance procedures for the 2018-19 school year.

“Students cannot fully benefit from the educational experience if they are not in school,” said Superintendent Andy Comstock. “Our former policies and procedures said that children should be in school, but provided no supports or consequences when students were excessively absent.”

Mr. Comstock worked with administrators, teachers, business leaders and parents to develop a new policy and procedures. All District schools will use this policy which applies to children in grades K-12. The Board of Education approved the new policy, JED, in June.

You can view Policy JED and Procedure JED-AP1 on the District 32 website at http://perrycountysd32.apptegy.us/o/district-32 under “Quick Links” or by clicking here.

“Input from the community was key to making this something that not only improves our attendance at school, but helps prepare the students for life after school,” said Board President Jamie Robinson. “Many of the changes were based on feedback from people and how their place of work looks at attendance.

The District has three classifications of absence:

Excused – An absence from school in which a parent has notified the school as to the reason why the student is absent.

Verified – An absence from school in which a parent has provided third-party documentation (e.g., doctor’s excuse) as to the reason why the student is absent.

Unexcused – An absence in which no reason has been provided to the school as to why the student was absent, or the student has exceeded 5 excused absences in one semester.

“We continue to excuse absences for things like illness, medical appointments, attending funerals, and religious observances,” Mr. Comstock said.

Policy JED also addresses truancy, which is when a student is absent from class or school without the knowledge and consent of the parents and the administration. A student is also considered truant if the student leaves school without the consent of the principal or accumulates excessive unjustifiable absences, even with parental consent. Truancy is a type of unexcused absence.

Consequences are outlined for violations of the attendance policy. These consequences increase in severity with each additional unexcused absence.

When students have an unexcused absence, the principal will assign the student to the academic lab where the student will make up missed work. When a student has accumulated three unexcused absences in one semester, the principal will arrange a conference with parents/guardians.

“The purpose of this conference is to find out why a student is not attending school regularly and work with the child and parents to increase the child’s engagement with school, and put in place supports to help the family improve the student’s attendance,” Mr. Comstock said.

With continued unexcused absences, the district will make referrals to the proper authorities beginning with the juvenile office after four unexcused absences. More than six unexcused absences result in a referral to the Children’s Division.

“Our administrative team and the board agree that the consequences are not designed to ‘punish’ behavior as much as to help change behaviors that are keeping children from attending school,” Mr. Comstock said. “In the past, we have had a couple of students with more than 50 absences in a school year, which is absolutely unacceptable. We’ve had parents who sign children in late and out early so they don’t have to wait in traffic. These new procedures allow us to address these absences by providing a framework designed to correct behavior that would not be allowed outside of the school setting.”

Mr. Robinson agreed. “I believe our new policy has clearly defined a reasonable set of expectations for student attendance and appropriate disciplinary steps for those that miss frequently,” he said.

He added that unexcused absences affect the entire district as well as the missing student.

“What many people don’t understand is that our school’s funding is based on an average weighted daily attendance,” he said. “If students are not attending, it hurts funding for the entire district. We need parents/guardians to help us enforce this policy and discourage any unexcused absence.

“Not only is it in the district’s best interest for the students to be in class, but it’s also paramount to their success as students. It’s very difficult to do well if you’re not there. The students miss out on classroom discussion and the opportunity to ask questions about the information presented that day. Upon return, the student has then potentially missed the basis for the current day’s lesson by not being there the previous day.

Mr. Comstock encourages parents and students to familiarize themselves with the policy and procedure and to contact their building principal if they have questions.