Chronic attendance still a problem despite detentions

Four+years+ago+Stillwater+had+one+of+the+worst+absenteeism+rates+in+the+state+of+Minnesota.+Now%2C+unexcused+absences+are+decreasing+while+excused+absences+are+increasing.
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Chronic attendance still a problem despite detentions

Four years ago Stillwater had one of the worst absenteeism rates in the state of Minnesota. Now, unexcused absences are decreasing while excused absences are increasing.

Four years ago Stillwater had one of the worst absenteeism rates in the state of Minnesota. Now, unexcused absences are decreasing while excused absences are increasing.

Photo by Paige Speedling

Four years ago Stillwater had one of the worst absenteeism rates in the state of Minnesota. Now, unexcused absences are decreasing while excused absences are increasing.

Photo by Paige Speedling

Photo by Paige Speedling

Four years ago Stillwater had one of the worst absenteeism rates in the state of Minnesota. Now, unexcused absences are decreasing while excused absences are increasing.

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Attendance had been an issue four years ago. Slowly, unexcused absences have been diminishing, while excused absences have been increasing. In the 2015 to 2016 school year, Stillwater had one of the worst chronic absenteeism rates in the state. Even now chronic absenteeism rates are down, but still present.

Attendance is a joint responsibility shared by students, parents and guardians and faculty. It is the student’s responsibility to attend all assigned classes and know the correct procedure when absent from an assigned class or study hall. It is the student’s parent or guardian’s responsibility to ensure the student is attending school and to work cooperatively with the school and the student to solve any attendance problems that may arise.

“We track unexcused absences, but we also track absences for an illnesses. If we see that there is a student missing a high number of days for being sick we can get in touch with their parent or guardian and health services here at school so we can determine if there is a bigger picture for them missing school and if we can work together to resolve that, ” Assistant Principal Matt Kraft said.

Any non-emergency, related reason for being late is marked unexcused even if a student has a note. Some examples of excused absences are illness (absences exceeding three days may require a physician statement), medical/dental appointments, required county/state court appointments, religious instruction (not to exceed 3 hours in one week), driver’s license test, serious family emergency i.e. funeral, special requests from parents (pre-arranged with Assistant Principal) and family vacation/sporting events. The school takes attendance very seriously. The school wants to make sure that students are in class as many days that they can be so students do not miss out on any important learning experiences.

If a student is gone more than eight percent or 10 days in a school year, it is called chronic absenteeism, and I would say that that is an issue because for the most part it is very difficult to get the best education that you can when you are missing that amount of time.”

— Matt Kraft

“Reasons considered non-emergency are oversleeping/alarm failure, arriving to school 10 minutes after the start of school or checking out more than 10 minutes before the end of the day without an acceptable reason, personal grooming appointments (hair, nails, tanning, etc), employment/job interview, driver’s Education (classroom or behind the wheel), skipping class/leaving campus without following proper procedure and car trouble,” secretary Allison Schroeder said.

A parent or guardian can log on to Skyward Family Access and sign their student in and out of school as well as request a full day absence or partial day absence. A signed note can be sent with the student to show the office at the time of departure in exchange for a permit to leave school. A parent may also call the attendance office to report an absence.

If a student has an unexcused absence, an automated call will be sent out in the evening as well as an email to the students parents or guardians to report the absence. If an inaccurate absence is reported it is the students responsibility to communicate to the teacher and figure out what went wrong. From the date the absence was reported the teacher has 24 hours to report the error to the attendance office or pony center.

“We [Stillwater] give parents the ultimate authority to decide if their kids have to go to school. Some parents are good about making sure that their kids get to school and others will call in and make questionable excuses. Some students have their parent’s Skyward password so they can excuse themselves. My thinking has evolved around attendance to where if we are not going to have an effective attendance policy, then I think we should be more forward looking to maybe students do not need to be here every day, but they are responsible for using their time wisely and getting their work done,” teacher Mike Kaul said.

We [Stillwater] give parents the ultimate authority to decide if their kids have to go to school. Some parents are good about making sure that their kids get to school and others will call in and make questionable excuses.”

— Mike Kaul

Although the school cannot restrict kids from leaving school or missing school, especially with a valid reason, the school encourages parents to schedule appointments around the school day to avoid missing important learning experiences. To avoid students leaving school without following the correct procedure, the school has police officers as well as security guards in the school at all times to ensure safety.

“If a student is gone more than eight percent or 10 days in a school year, it is called chronic absenteeism, and I would say that that is an issue because for the most part it is very difficult to get the best education that you can when you are missing that amount of time. I would not say that it is not a problem, but I think that for certain students it becomes a big problem,” Kraft said.

Attending school is important, not only for educational purposes, but as well as for a student’s future as a whole. All absences and tardies are unexcused by default. Students and families have 48 hours from the time a student returns to school to contact the school or produce a letter, note, or any documentation verifying a valid excuse or reason in order to convert an unexcused code to an excused code. In cases of recurring unexcused absences, administration may also request the county attorney to file a petition with the juvenile court, pursuant to Minnesota statutes.

According to Minnesota law, compulsory attendance includes 15-17 year olds students. A student who reaches seven unexcused absences is in violation of the Minnesota compulsory attendance law. Students attending Stillwater Area Public Schools that do attain 7 or more unexcused absences are considered a habitual truant and a truancy petition may be filled with Washington County or may be referred to the county attorney’s office.

Stillwater is open to looking at their schedule to see if it is working the best. Kraft believes that having school six hours a day for five days a week may not be the best option for students and thinks it could be worthwhile to open up a conversation around it. Faculty want students attending Stillwater to be happy and ready to learn as much as they can to set students up for success in the future. Kraft also believes that if the number was to come out on this year’s chronic absenteeism, that it would be less than the number recorded four years ago.

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