Janesville schools could ease attendance rules
JANESVILLE Janesville public schools could change a longtime attendance policy under a proposal that goes to the school board Tuesday night.
For years, an elementary student who was late by just 15 minutes has been marked as absent for half a day. Students in middle or high school have been marked absent for a class even if they were late by five minutes.
It’s one of the strictest attendance policies in the state, Director of Student Services Yolanda Cargile told a school board committee Tuesday.
The board’s Personnel, Policy and Curriculum Committee on Tuesday voted 3-0 to recommend a change so students would be faulted only for the time they missed.
The district’s Truancy Committee reviewed attendance data before recommending the change.
The policy frustrates parents who sometimes fail to get their children to school on time because of problems with transportation, difficulties with siblings or job issues, Cargile wrote.
“Our response is believed to be too strict and disenfranchises families,” she said.
Officials in the past have supported the strict policy because of the importance of school attendance.
But the policy actually works to keep some kids out of school for longer periods, Cargile told the committee.
Some parents of elementary students see that a 15-minute absence equals half a day, so they simply keep the children home for half a day, Cargile said.
The proposed change would align the district’s practices to state guidelines: Students who attend at least one hour in the morning would be counted as being in attendance for the morning, and students who attend at least one hour in the afternoon would be counted as being present for afternoon, the memo states.
There’s another reason for the change: a new state accountability measure.
The new state “report cards,” which were issued for each school for the first time this fall, take truancy into account when giving each school its rating.
Several Janesville schools were “dinged” on that measure on the report cards, said Kim Ehrhardt, the district’s director of curriculum, instruction and assessment. The proposed guidelines would improve the schools’ ratings.
On the Agenda
The Janesville School Board meets at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St. Agenda items include:
- A vote to continue the position of interim supervisor of special education, which was created last year and is slated for review in January. A federal special-education grant covers the $80,000 salary through June, but funding for the following fiscal year is as yet unknown.
- Possible continuation of discussion about a new employee dress code.
- Possible discussion of the district’s policy on the use of videos in the classroom, after a concern was raised about teachers showing movies. The administration is already asking principals to remind their staffs of the district’s policy on video use, after a discussion at a board committee meeting.
- In closed session, the board is scheduled to discuss employee compensation and early retirement benefits.