Crackdown On Attendance


Mackenzie Lawrence photo

A student signs in with the front desk as being late on Sept. 27.

Mackenzie Lawrence, Staff Writer

Over the last few years, Stephen Decatur High School has had a lenient attendance policy enforcement – but this year, the rules back to normal.

Although the attendance policy is being strictly enforced this year, administrators will do everything in their power to make sure students don’t fail, according to Principal Thomas Sites. He said the attendance policy, followed by all public schools in Worcester County, has been in place for longer than he’s been teaching here.

“The last thing we want to do is fail you especially if you’re right on the cusp of the attendance policy,” Sites added, “We’ll find a way to make up the time so that students don’t get in a bad situation where they lose credit.”

The current attendance policy states that students are allowed to have the following absences:

  • Five excused absences from parent notes
  • Five vacation days
  • Five unexcused absences
  • Unlimited amount of medical notes

If a student surpasses these amount of absences, it is said they will fail their classes.

During COVID-19, the attendance policy wasn’t enforced because there was no way to follow it given the spread of the virus.

“It was kind of difficult to enforce that policy in the same exact way that it’s written. Now that we are back to what we want to call ‘normal,’ we will enforce it,” Sites said.

As one may imagine, it was rather difficult to get back into the rhythm of enforcing the attendance policy after going so many years without it, even when the COVID-19 virus is still spreading.

Said Sites: “We have to bite the bullet at some point and go back a hundred percent so that’s where we are this year.”

Even though there is a desire to be back to normal, Sites also acknowledges the struggle students will face when it comes to this change. “There will be some growing pains and there’s going to be some kids who are having a hard time with it.”

To help enforce this policy, an attendance officer will be working with administration. When a student is running out of absences, she will call them down to warn them. If they still have more absences, you will get a call from their grade administrator. If your absences are still a problem, they will then hold a mandatory meeting with you, your parents, and your grade administrator.

“There’s a lot of days built in there, you just have to be using them wisely,” Sites said.

Administrators are working together to implement the once-standard and regularly-enforced policy. Although it was easier to manage students following the attendance policy in past years, now it will take a lot of work, Sites added.

As one may have guessed, students are not taking this change lightly, especially upperclassman who want to have an easier ending of high school.

Brooks Kendall, a senior, doesn’t agree with everything the policy has to say.

“If you’re excelling in the class, it shouldn’t matter if you’re missing a few days,” he said, adding, “I think it should be based off of a grading system, like if you have a certain GPA you get to miss a certain amount of days.”

With this dramatic change, students tend to come up with new ideas to make the policy, in their eyes, better. This can be anywhere from extra days off to specific rewards students can get for attending school.

Along with the GPA rule, Kendall thinks that there should be five excused absences for just a semester rather than the entire year, seven vacation days, and six parent notes for the entire year. According to him, seven vacation days, rather than five, gives them more time to travel and enjoy their vacation without having to rush back home.

Senior Logan Intrieri said he agrees with Kendall’s thoughts on not being able to fail if you go a little over the given amount of absences and you have good grades, but he is more open to the return of the old attendance policy.

“I mean, if you come to school and do your job it’s not really a problem, but I know it is a problem for some people,” Intrieri said.

When explaining the potential students who don’t follow the attendance policy and may be at risk of failing, Intrieri mentioned the Credit Recovery Program that Stephen Decatur provides during the summer. The Credit Recovery Program lets juniors and sophomores have a second chance at passing many required classes in order to graduate on time. This program will help the students who may surpass the given amount of absences and are at risk of failing classes.

Intrieri said he believes that five vacation days for the entire school year is not enough. He would also like it to be increased to at least seven days.

Many expressed frustration with the change but they only have to follow it for their final year of high school, due to the fact that they have only had one and a half semesters of their freshman year with the attendance policy. On the other hand, juniors have two years with the attendance policy after not having a real policy within their high school career.

With everything being online for the past year or so, students find it tempting to just do their work online rather than coming to school. This creates confusion with the attendance policy because students can log onto Schoology and do their work at home but they will not be marked present.

“You can get the homework with just a press of a button,” said junior Jack Croll. “If a test was on paper, it would be harder” to make up, he said.

If Croll could change the attendance policy, he would make fifteen days of excused absences for the entire year. “Students would definitely take advantage of it but as long as they do the make up work, they shouldn’t care,” he said.

Junior Katelynn King said she likes that the attendance policy enforces students to come to school. Since she plays soccer, basketball, and softball throughout the school year, King has never had a problem with coming to school because in order to go to sports practice, she has to attend school.

“I’m more obligated to come just so I don’t miss out on something,” King said, as opposed to underclassmen who have less responsibilities.

In King’s eyes, the attendance policy should have more vacation days. “I feel like people go away for more than five days or they’ll go for two weeks so I feel like that could be more flexible,” she said.

Even though King thinks that students can benefit from the more strict attendance policy, she feels as if some students won’t care about failing classes as much as administrator’s expect. “People are still going to do the same thing they do if they changed the policy or not,” she said.

On the other hand, for freshman, this is just another new aspect of many that comes with changing schools.

“It’s just something to adjust to like new hallways, new attendance rules,” said freshman Ellie Cheynet.

Cheynet said she thinks it’s “easier” for her to adjust to the return of the attendance policy compared to students who have gone much longer without any restrictions. If she could change the attendance policy, she would allow more parent notes.

“There’s some days where you’re sick but you don’t want to go to the doctor,” Cheynet said.