Rocky Fork Enterprise

Board mulls revisions to attendance policy

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The Gahanna-Jefferson Board of Education was expected to consider student-attendance policy revisions to provide consistency throughout the district during its meeting on May 8, at Clark Hall.

Sherri Zynda, the district's director of special programming, presented a report to the board during a May 1 workshop, along with Pam Schilling, data specialist, and Stephanie Collins, Education Management Information System coordinator.

Zynda said the group looked to see if everyone in the district was following the same procedure at the beginning of the school year.

When district leaders realized buildings followed different rules, a committee was formed to study attendance guidelines.

"We realized we weren't in alignment with policy in the handbook," Zynda said.

The committee comprised a principal from the elementary schools, middle schools and high school along with Scott Schmidt, executive director of elementary education.

"We met quite a few times as an attendance committee," Zynda said. "We wanted to answer how long should tardy time be. It was different in K-12."

Schilling said the elementary schools have had a 60-minute tardy period, but there were no consistencies for what designated a tardy at the middle schools.

The committee recommended that students who sign in up to 60 minutes after school begins should receive a tardy, and students who sign in at 61 minutes or later after school begins should receive a half-day absence.

Board member Matthew Campbell questioned the consequences for students being 61 minutes late.

Zynda said it would be a decision based on the building level, but a Saturday school is being considered for the high school.

"We have that at the middle school," she said. "Our recommendation is to add a Saturday school for the high school, not just for attendance but as another tool assistant principals can use at the high school."

Collins said students are allowed 10 days of excused absences at the elementary and middle school levels, whereas high school students are permitted 15 days.

"Our committee wants 10 days across the board," she said.

An explanation for the absence may be approved for health-related or professional appointments, illness in the family, death of a relative, observation or celebration of a bona fide religious holiday, out-of-state travel to participate in a district-approved enrichment or extracurricular activity, emergency or other set of circumstance and college visitation.

After a student has been absent 10 days, excused or unexcused in any school year, a letter would be sent home that could include a request for a "Needs Medical/Court Excuse" for any additional days missed, according to the proposed policy.

Campbell asked what the district provides for families after 10 days of school have been missed.

Zynda said parents are held accountable for student absences in K-5.

"We try to help," she said. "It depends on the situation on what intervention we apply. An option is to mediate and provide intervention so it doesn't get to that point."

In addition to a decision about the student attendance policy, G-J treasurer Julio Valladares is scheduled to provide a report about the district's five-year financial forecast through fiscal year 2018.

The board also will consider approval of the issuance of diplomas to 559 members of the Class of 2014, pending satisfactory completion of all requirements of graduation.

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