C-A sets new attendance rules for elementaries

FLINT TWP. — A new attendance policy for grades K-5 in the Carman-Ainsworth School District, establishes consistent measures to ensure that children come to school and avoid court involvement.

Under the policy, students with 25 absences will be referred to the Genesee County Circuit Court for interventions. That policy was in place in the past but enforcement varied by building, said Dave Swierpel, director of professional learning & community services, who worked on a committee to develop the uniform attendance policy.

“Now 25 will trigger court action,’’ he said, adding that, in the past, every building has had at least a couple of students with that many absences.

“Our goal is to prevent them from reaching that level,’’ Swierpel said of the new policy which starts interventions at five absences. The previous system varied by building and lacked consistency, said Swierpel

“Our main goal was to standardize how we monitor and track attendance and use technology,’’ he said.

That technology includes software that will generate a daily list of absent students.

Beginning this year, when a student reaches five absences a call will be made home from the teacher.

After 10 absences, calls will be made and a letter sent home to parents stressing the importance of attendance and proposing a plan to ensure consistent attendance.

In the past, some schools might have been sending the letter home after 12 absences.

“Now everyone will be doing the same thing,’’ Swierpel said.

The new policy also requires that a parent or guardian notify the school when a child will be tardy or absent and provide an excuse and/or medical documentation.

Being more than one hour late or leaving school more than one hour early will be counted as a half-day absence.

Under the new policy, at 15-19 absences a letter will be sent home stating the Compulsory Attendance Act which mandates that all children ages six to 16 must be sent to school. Failure to do so can lead to fines or jail time.

At 20-24 absences, an intervention meeting will be set up that may include the GISD Attendance Liaison and the parent will be made aware of the consequences of any more absences/tardiness.

The 25th absence will result in a letter informing the parent that a court petition has been filed and could lead to the parent and child being ordered to make weekly appearances at the Genesee County Attendance Court overseen by Judge Duncan Beagle.

Swierpel cited studies from attendanceworks.org, a state and national initiative, which found that students who miss 10 percent of kindergarten or first grade score lower on standardized tests in reading and math.

“As we have looked at our attendance, about 21 percent of kindergartners miss more than ten percent of school days,’’ Swierpel said.

Data for K-5 students shows that 13 percent missed 18 or more days of school.

“It is something we want to improve,’’ Swierpel said. “We do know it impacts learning.’”

Attendance Works also reports that excessive absences can predicate a pattern of poor attendance and academic failure that follows them into high school and worsens the dropout rate.

As a proactive measure, CA also is implementing an incentive plan to reward good attendance, Swierpel said.

“Our goal is to support parents and to provide an incentive for kids to be in school,’’ he said.

The attendance policy will be printed in the student handbook and also the district newsletter, he said.

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