photo by Nathan Hormell
As the school year reaches its midpoint, attendance is again becoming a relevant topic at Tyrone Area High School.
The district implemented a new attendance policy before this school year, and some students are beginning to notice the consequences of these changes.
Changes in the attendance policy for the 2019-2020 school year include a reduction in the allowable number of absences and in the number of allowable days for family and educational trips.
While students were previously permitted to miss up to twenty-five days of school, students may now only miss fifteen days before losing academic credit. Also, family and educational trips now may not be longer than five consecutive school days and permission must be granted at least one month prior to the trip.
The purpose of these changes are to combat chronic absenteeism, promote academic success, and ready students for the workforce.
According to Tyrone School District social worker Molly Stroup, poor attendance is the biggest problem facing employers today, especially locally.
“The number one characteristic sighted by every employer [in the area] as the most critical job skill was workplace attendance. Regular attendance is reflective of one’s work ethic, reliability, consideration of teammates, and acknowledges that the customer’s needs are a priority,” said Stroup.
However, since the new attendance policy was implemented, there has not yet been a statistically significant improvement in attendance, at least at the high school. But Stroup is confident that improved attendance will be a long term result of this change.
By tightening Tyrone’s attendance policy the school hopes to reduce long term dropout rates and help ready students for life after high school. The National Dropout Prevention Center says”missing too many school days” is the number one reason cited by dropouts for why they did not complete high school.
However, Stroup stressed that the stricter attendance policy is not meant to punish students with legitimate medical conditions that hinder their attendance.
“If you have chronic medical conditions such as asthma or bonafide migraines… or chronic GI conditions… some people have conditions that flare up and we are absolutely compassionate about recognizing that and we work with the physician who is treating that child. If someone claims they have a condition like that they should be under medical care [becasue] we do require some physician consult and most doctors are happy to do that for patients,” said Stroup.
When a student misses three or more days of school unexcused the student is considered truant. If found guilty, the first offense of truancy is a fine of up to $300 and a possible suspension of operating privileges for 90 days.
But Stroup also stressed that the new attendance policy is not meant to punish students for circumstances out of their control.
“We need you to know the school policy because you’re going to be held responsible with consequences under the school policy, but we also need you to know that there’s help available when you need it,” said Stroup.