New attendance policy prevents truancy

By Christian DiMartino

On a typical school day, students wake up, get ready, and make their way to school. They go from class to class, learning new things. However, some do not. Some students miss one day, and maybe another, and sometimes more than that. Whether it is for illness, personal issues,or simply just playing hooky, attendance is a problem.

What happens when a student misses a day of school? Usually a student will come in the next day, but they have to catch up on everything that he or she missed. But sometimes, a lone desk can be empty for more than a few days, and it could lead one to wonder: Where did they go?
Missing school may not seem like that big of an issue, but it is bigger than one might expect.Before the 2010-2011 school year, if students missed too many days, they would be forced to attend a class known as TEAM (Tuesday/Thursday Excessive Absence Makeup). Then by the tenth absence, a legal letter would be sent home, and any further days absent would result in expulsion.

But now, there is a new absence policy. If a student is gone for more than ten days in just one class, he or she might not even receive credit for the class.  The rest of the absence policy is as follows: On the fourth absence (excused or unexcused), a student receives their first legal letter. On the sixth, there is a parent conference. On the eighth, a student will receive another legal letter, they will pull their work permit, and then they will be placed on probation. On the twelfth, an expulsion is filed.

“When a student hits four absences, then I pick them up off of a print out that is run and two things happen: first, I see the student and the attendance policy. Second, a letter goes home to a parent,” said student liaison Becky Clifton.

Not only does missing school have an effect on students, but it also has an effect on the staff.
“I want you here so you can learn, but we also want you to learn the function of beingsomewhere on time every day. The reason we do that is so when you enter the workforce, you understand the importance of attendance,” Clifton said.

“There are quite often legitimate reasons for student missing school, however, there are far more absences than there needs to be. The grades suffer,” said counselor Jessica Newkirk.

“In math, it puts students behind and they lose that lesson. When students struggle,attendance is part of it,” said math teacher Randy Gianfagna.

“When you miss school, you miss assignments and the work that is coming, so it’s important that you come to school every day,” said assistant principal of student development Joe Voelker.

But here is one fact about the new policy; according to statistics provided by Voelker, it is working. Last year, there was 10,053 student days absent, which sounds like quite a number. But compared to 292,900 student days present, and the overall percentage for the year came to 96.68. So far this year,there has been a total of 1,669 student days missing. However, there is 299,438.50 student days present, and the percentage is 99.86.
But is the absence policy too strict?

“It’s fair… it’s set up so when you miss school because of being sick or court, as an example, you can file a waiver and it is granted, and I think the waivers are what make our policy fair. It would be nice if it were more strict, however, it would be more practical,” said Clifton. “Well, if we decreased the number of days we missed, it would be difficult for some students to survive that and this seems to be a pretty attainable policy right now. If we made it tougher, we have a small percentage of students expelled.”

“They’ve involved probation, and I think that the level of absences have dropped, because the attendance has improved,” said Newkirk.

“It’s gotten better, now with it just being eight absences; it’s gotten better,” Gianfagna said.

“I think it’s very good. I think it’s worked, I only deal with about 40 kids [in a semester] with an attendance issue, and I never have to meet with them again,” Voelker said.

Ferris Bueller, the lead in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, skipped school nine times and went out for an adventurous day with his two best friends. But in the meantime, someone was out to get him: his principal, Ed Rooney, who tracks Ferris all around Chicago so then he can catch him in the act. The movie may set a bad example.

But the question is: Are there people like Ferris Bueller? “We have one every year,” said Clifton. “But the policy that we have now doesn’t let them get to an extreme amount of absences.”

How about Ed Rooney? “It’s kind of what I do, but I hope I don’t look that bad,” said Clifton.
“There are times, but I have never actually tracked anyone down,” Voelker said.
So far this year, there has been a total of 1,669 student days missing. However, there is 299,438.50 student days present, and the percentage is 99.86.

Missing too much school can cause many problems, and it is a good thing that the rate isimproving.”There’s a benefit to coming to school. you learn more in class, socially also, you get along better because your friends see you as a dependable person,” Voelker said.

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