WCS: Attend today, achieve tomorrow

WILMINGTON — September is Attendance Awareness Month in our community.

“The start of each school year presents an important opportunity to lift up an increasingly urgent issue: Too many children are missing too many days of school,” said Wilmington City Schools Superintendent Mindy McCarty-Stewart. “Literally tens of thousands of children even in the early grades are chronically absent — missing nearly a month or more of school every year.

She said children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are much less likely to read proficiently by the end of third grade and are more likely to have poor attendance in later grades.

By middle and high school, chronic absence is a proven early warning sign that a student will drop out. This is especially true for those students living in poverty, who need school the most and are sometimes attending the least.

“Chronic absence is a problem we can solve when schools, families and community partners work together,” said McCarty-Stewart. “Across the country, hundreds of communities like ours are launching Attendance Awareness Month, an important step in calling attention to the importance of school attendance at the start of the school year.

“Whether you are a parent, teacher, principal, superintendent, elected official, business leader, after-school provider, or you represent a public agency or a faith-based organization, you have a role to play.”

Wilmington City Schools is working diligently on improving student attendance.

“It is one of our district goals for our three year improvement plan,” said the superintendent. “In addition to our efforts we are also following a few changes in House Bill 410.

“September is Attendance Awareness month, however our school will be focused on strong attendance each and every day as a priority.”

She stated that partnering with the entire community is important in carrying on the message of attending school on time and every day is important for student success.

McCarty-Stewart provided the following information for Wilmington City Schools:

Attendance FAQ’s

Q: Why did WCS change the policy on attendance?

A: Missing out of school is missing out in education. We know that students are more successful in life when they have strong attendance habits. They are more likely to graduate, earn college entrance and higher paying jobs. Our policy is aligned to the new House Bill 410.

Q: Do tardies count toward hours of absence? If so, then does a 15-minute tardy count as a full hour missed or will they count it as a partial hour?

A: Yes. It accumulates. 15+15+15+15=60 minutes

Q: Why are tardies such a big deal? They’re only missing a few minutes

A: Students miss key information, announcements, and learning — 10 minutes a day adds up to 30 hours of instruction lost for a year. When students start late, they are more distracted. Routines are helpful.

Q: What if my child is late to school because of the bus that they ride? Will that be counted as tardy?

A: No. Using school transportation is the most reliable way to arrive to school.

Q: What if my child has to go to the doctor/dentist during the day? Are they still counted as absent?

A: Yes. They will be considered excused until hours missed accumulate to 38 hours. Doctor notes must be turned in within (48 hours) or 2 business days from the appointment.

Q: Should I send my child to school if they are sick so that their hours won’t add up?

A: No. Your child’s health and recovery is important. The policy allows for a realistic/normal amount of time that parents are allowed to call their child in for legitimate absence from school.

Q: What if my child’s absences are excused?

A: Parents have the right for legitimate reasons to call their child in absent prior to the student being considered excessively absent. A note or phone call must be provided to the school by a parent or guardian within 48 hours or 2 business days.

Q: What if my child has an illness, disease, or injury that causes them to miss a lot of school? Will they be sent to court if they miss too many hours?

A: You should contact your child’s counselor or administrator and a plan will be developed to address these extenuating circumstances.

Q: What if I have trouble getting my child to school on time because of my work schedule or illness?

A: Every parent or guardian has a legal responsibility to make sure their child attends school on time and every day. Transportation is provided for our students.

Q: What if my child doesn’t want to go to school because they are struggling emotionally or socially.

A: Every child counts and has the right to a quality education. Avoiding school does not resolve emotional and social issues. Contact your child’s counselor or administrator and a plan will be developed to address these extenuating circumstances.

Q: What is an Absence Intervention Plan?

A: A student-centered plan that identifies specific barriers and solutions to attendance. The plan is created to help improve student attendance and prevent filing truancy complaints in juvenile court.

Q: Will I be involved in the Absence Intervention Plan?

A: Yes. The student and the parent/guardian are the most important people to help create the intervention plan.

Q: Will I be notified if my child misses too many hours/days?

A: Yes. Every day your child is reported absent, you will be notified through an auto dial system. Warning letters are mailed home when your child is absent from school for 18 unexcused hours, and 38 hours in a month or 65 hours in a year.

If you have additional questions, please contact your child’s school.

Attendance expectations

Every child counts and has the right to a quality education. Every parent and guardian has a legal responsibility to make sure their child attends school on time and every day.

INTERVENTION: Letter mailed to Parents after 18 unexcused hours absent. When excused/unexcused absences become habitual or excessive an Intervention Plan is initiated.

STRONG ATTENDANCE: 5 or fewer days absent per year is considered strong attendance.

Definitions (House Bill 410)

• Habitual truancy: 30 consecutive hours without legitimate excuse; 42 hours in a school month without legitimate excuse; 72 hours per school year without legitimate excuse.

• Excessive absences: 38 hours in a school month with or without legitimate excuse; 65 hours per school year with or without legitimate excuse.

• Chronic absenteeism: 10 percent of days absent of 92 hours with or without legitimate excuse in a school year.

Every school day equals 7 hours for middle/high school of 6.5 hours for elementary school.

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Provides FAQ’s on district policies

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