New friends, teachers and policies governing student attendance were among the changes that awaited students as they started the 2015-2016 school year.
Students will have to think twice before deciding whether to miss school, especially if they want to be involved in extracurricular activities. That is the message that Knox County educators want to share with students as they work towards the goal of raising the average daily attendance by at least 1% district-wide in the new year.
The biggest change to the policy is consequences for students who frequently miss days that are unexcused. After a student has accumulated ten (10) unexcused absences, he or she will not be allowed to participate in any school activities that are not required of all students or graded. The policy cites examples such as athletics, extracurricular field trips, dance, cheer, prom, and other club and organization trips that are not assessed.
The Board, in adopting the policy this summer, put plans into place to reduce the number of unexcused absences in future years. This will be reduced to eight (8) unexcused in 2016-2017 and six (6) unexcused in 2017-2018.
With the new rules in place for unexcused absences comes clarification on when parent and doctor notes can be used. Five (5) days may be excused by written parental notes within the school year, with no specific reasoning attached to the five days. Ten (10) days will continue to be excused for medical reasons, which include but are not limited to, physician, dental or eye care visits. After the tenth (10th) medical excuse has been submitted, students will be required to submit a medical excuse form provided by the school. The medical excuse form is already being distributed to the major physicians and care centers in Knox County.
During the 2014-2015 academic year, a total of 388,000 instructional hours were lost due to absences. Nationwide trend data and research shows that many of our youngest students miss ten (10) percent of the school year—about 18 days a year or just two days every month. Chronic absenteeism in kindergarten, and even in preschool, can predict lower test scores, poor attendance and retention in later grades.