School system cracking down on absences

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By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor

School attendance is a major focus this year for the Morgan County Charter School System. According to assistant superintendent Sarah Burbach, the school system recently revised its attendance policies, aiming to curb student absences.

“The Morgan County Charter School System is using the theme, ‘Every Minute, Every Day’ to impress upon all of our stakeholders the importance of being at school,” said Burbach.  “We are grateful to our community, business, agency, and legal leaders who have helped us promote a culture of attendance that should continue throughout the college and careers of our students.”

Both city and county governments joined together with the school system earlier this month to sign the Attendance Proclamation in honor of Attendance awareness month.

Parents of students with five unexcused absences, 10 total absences, will be required to attend a mandatory “Attendance Review Team meeting” to devise a “Attendance Plan/Truancy Prevention plan” that will be signed by the entire team and the parents. If parents decline to go, they could be issued a summons and have to appear before the Magistrate Court where the judge will issue an order to the parent mandating attendance. A school social worker will report to the court about whether or not the order is being followed. The school social worker will also work with parents to help alleviate attendance problems. However, if attendance issues persist in defiance of the court order, an arrest warrant will be issued for the parents. Truancy laws are applicable for students ages five through their 16th birthday.

Burbach and school social worker Pam Benford reported to the Morgan County Board of Education (BOE) last Monday about the importance of school attendance.

“If a student misses two days every month, that’s over 10 percent of the school year,” noted Benford. That is too many days for them to miss to stay on top of what they need to do.”

Absences are not the only concern, according to Benford. Late arrivals and early checkouts are also problematic. “We have got to figure out a way to get parents to let students stay there all day unless they truly have an emergency. Under the new attendance policy, students with 10 or more unexcused tardies/checkouts will also be sent to the Attendance Review Team.

“It’s important for these children to be in school. We want to help families make sure they are present as much as possible,” said Burbach.

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