Student Attendance

Good morning parents,

As I shared in one of these blogs/emails last year, we began to notice that we have a rather significant problem in the area of attendance. During the second half of last year, we tried to study this problem to understand it better, with the hope that this year we could do a better job partnering with parents to improve the situation.

Our context for reasonable student absence is that we think a student with 0-3 absences in a school year is pretty normal. When a student gets to 10 absences in a school year, we believe that is clearly excessive. In fact, the truancy laws are set up based on that standard. What we noticed when we studied the absence patterns of our students, they really fell into one of two groups. The first group we would call the “habitually truants,” who are absent over ten times per year without a valid medical reason. This is a relatively small group of students who miss way too many days and it clearly impacts their learning in major ways. The second group is just too “casual” about their attendance and too often with the support of their parents. They miss days, and even more common, parts of days with their parent’s full permission which makes it seem okay. They sleep in and come to school at 9:00 am instead of 7:25 am, and they simply miss too much with the permission of their parents. We think that in many cases, parents don’t fully realize how many times this is occurring because we have a fairly large group of students last year who came in late or otherwise missed class 20 times or more. Of course, we are also concerned that this sort of “casual” approach to attendance is not only having a negative effect on learning, it is also a very poor “life skill” because this behavior certainly does not set a student up for success in the next chapter of their lives.

The plan we have put in place this year at OHS is to have a formal meeting each Monday morning with Terri Hengst (who manages the school attendance), Andy Bonestroo (the HS guidance counselor), Bryce DeRoos (our school psychologist who will specialize in at-risk programming), and Scott Greupink (HS principal). Each Monday morning Terri will bring a cumulative attendance report that shows the on-going incidences of absence. We will discuss who will communicate with parents for each student whose attendance is raising to a level of concern, and we will plan how we can best intervene in each situation. Our plan is to begin with strong communication with students and parents, and then if necessary progress to school discipline, and ultimately the truancy citation process. We also plan to track all of our communications and efforts to address these problems through a shared document. It is our sincere hope that we can have a positive impact on this reality by talking with students and parents about our expectations around attendance, just keeping the scope of the problem in front of everyone on a weekly basis. We will also talk with parents about how we can assist them in solving the problem from their perspective.

Obviously, this is a problem that is in the best interest of everyone to solve. We feel we will find eager partners in parents to address this issue if we take steps to communicate earlier and more frequently, so we can make sure the attendance issues are well understood by everyone involved. We look forward to working with parents to address this important issue.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please take the time to call me at 564-2346 x1001.

Have a great week,