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New board policy encourages school attendance

"School officials are hoping a new policy adopted Monday night will help cure an attendance problem at South Whidbey High School.Mike Johnson, principal, told the school board that last year, attendance was 90 percent the first semester and 88 percent the second semester. He's aiming for 94-95 percent.Nothing can replace what takes place inside the classroom, Johnson said, explaining the intent of the attendance policy adopted by the board.Assistant principal Doug Hale also acknowledged that low attendance has been a problem. We seem to be on the heavy end of kids missing school, he said. Hale said the high school staff showed resounding support in approving the policy, with only two casting negative votes.Here's the policy:* After five absences (excluding school related absences) in any class in a term, the student will be contacted by the teacher and reminded of the attendance policy and the possible loss of credit if the absences continue.* After seven absences (excluding school related absences) in any class in a term, a letter will be sent to the parent/guardian as a reminder of the attendance policy and the possible loss of credit if the absences continue.* Upon the accumulation of 10 absences (excluding school related absences) in any class in a term, the student will be placed on a no credit status for that class. Appropriate notification will be given to the student and parent/guardian.* A student placed on no credit status is still required to attend class. Failure to attend class could result in a change from no credit to an F (failing) grade, but failure to attend class will not change an F to no credit status. A status of no credit will not affect the student's GPA, while a grade of F will be averaged into the GPA.The aim of the policy is to encourage students to keep attending class even if they've been absent in order to avoid an F.An essential part of the new policy is an appeals process in which the no credit status can erased by an attendance board. A long illness or family vacation, for example, could be excused if documented in writing, and if the teacher states in writing that the student is passing the class. The student must be prepared to explain all absences to the attendance review board, the policy states.School board member Ray Gabelein questioned if a family going out of town would have to deal with the no credit situation, and was told that is the case.They're in danger of losing credit for that class, Hale noted. But there is an appeal process.One intent of the new attendance policy was to make it clear to the students. Steve Clarke, a teacher, said, We needed some concrete numbers for the students to look at. The desire was a real world situation, in which attendance is important.The five-member board unanimously adopted the new policy."

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