Schools don’t skip out on attendance
Educations: Phones, emails at the ready to check absentees
Wednesday, Nov 01, 2017 06:00 am
If a Holy Trinity Academy student misses a class for no good reason, it means his or her parents will be getting a message quicker than an Ohio State Buckeye linebacker blitzing a quarterback.
“If a student is going to miss a class or a day, their parents contact our front office,” explained Holy Trinity Academy principal Carmen Ostafichuk. “Nancy Endersby, that is her primary role. She keeps track of 850 kids, four times a day to make sure the students are where they are supposed to be.”
If the absence is not an excused one, Endersby, the school’s attendance officer, fires off an email or phone call to mom or dad.
A similar system is used at Foothills Composite High School. Parents are asked to use an absence phone line and email if their child has to miss a class or day. If the Comp doesn’t hear from a parent or guardian, an unexcused absence will trigger an automated phone call to their primary phone number at the end of the day.
A missed day of school is no holiday - it can add up to some setbacks in a student’s education. Fortunately, both Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools and Foothills School Division have things in place to get students back and engaged in the classroom.
“Attendance is an area of focus for us this year,” said Loriann Salmon, Foothills School Division director of inclusive learning. “We are trying to implement some pro-active strategies as well as targeted supports for students who do struggle with attendance — we’ve developed a bit of a toolkit.”
Foothills classifies chronic absenteeism for all students as 10 per cent of classes a year — 18 days in a school year.
“When a student misses 10 per cent of school, the teacher is getting in contact with the home to see what is going on is there something that can be done to help support the student,” Salmon said.
Although Ostafichuk doesn’t use the term “chronic absenteeism,” the school’s collective radar goes off if a student starts missing about two days a month – roughly 10 per cent.
“At the end of the month we will phone homes to let people know we are concerned,” Ostafichuk said.
A student’s fanny consistently in the seat is directly related to how his brain works on a test.
“To do well, you have to be there,” Ostafichuk said. “When you are not there the likelihood of not doing well — or not passing — increases exponentially.
“Especially, after missing two or more days a month. It becomes nearly impossible to get your credits.”
Foothills Comp doesn’t have a set number of days missed as to when its administrators will get involved.
“It is treated based on individual students and situations,” said Foothills principal Vince Hunter. “We collaborate with teachers, counsellors, connection workers and learning coaches. We try and have a wrap around for kids when they are struggling with getting to school.”
Peter James, HTA school connections worker, said the school works with students and their families.
“If it is something really troubling, we try to find out what the root cause is,” James said. “They (students) might be avoiding something at school — peer issues, conflict with teachers, or issues outside of school, lack of structure at home — find out the root issues.”
Sometimes the root problem is quite apparent.
“Some kids don’t like school,” Ostafichuk said. “It is torture for some kids.”
HTA also provides the PowerSchool system. It allows all parents in the CTR Catholic system to follow their child’s performance and attendance.
It turns out attendance issues aren’t just a concern for those students at the highest level — even Grade 1 children lose out when they miss classes.
“Sometimes parents might think ‘oh, it is only Kindergarten or Grade 1, ‘but really that is when the foundational learning is taking place,” said Salmon. “If they miss two days a month, over the course of year, that’s about a month of school.
“That is a lot of foundation learning that a student is missing. Every day really does count.”
There are a variety of strategies parents can use, the first being getting the child out the door.
“They can get there kids to school — know when to bring your kids to school and know when not to bring your kids to school,” Salmon said. “Sometimes if a kid is complaining about a little tummy-ache, maybe it is best to bring them to school. Now if the child is sick, that is when the parents should keep them out of school.”
She stressed if a student is coming up with a lot of reasons not to attend school, parents should talk to him or her about it. It could be a larger issue such as bullying, low self-esteem and others. For more information about FSD’s attendance strategy go to fsd38.ab.ca and look for Every Student Counts.