School ends with improved attendance; changes to waiver policy planned for next year

Image of students in a classroom with student entering carrying a backpack

The Knox County Public Schools’ trend of increased attendance continues for the third consecutive year, with the 2018-19 school year ending at 91.34% average daily attendance.  Prior year totals were 90.96% in 2017-18 and 90.79% in 2016-17.

While the increases are slight, they do make a difference in student success according to Director of Pupil Personnel Gina Sears.

“The more students in class means added opportunities for collaboration, diversity of opinions and ideas during discussions, and less time used reviewing material that was missed,” explained Sears as just some of the student benefits.  “Anytime you have all students present the whole class benefits.”

The schools with the highest overall daily attendance were Jesse D. Lay Elementary at 94.19%, Lynn Camp Middle at 93.65, and Lynn Camp High at 90.04%.

The district continues to seek ways to improve attendance each year.  New for the upcoming school year is a change to the existing six unexcused absences or twenty tardies policy.  While the policy will remain (any student that misses more than six unexcused absences or accumulates more than twenty tardies will be ineligible to participate in non-graded activities) there will be a change to the waiver procedures.

Previously a student could request a one-time waiver and explain their circumstances in order to participate as long as he or she did not accumulate additional unexcused absences.  The waiver was requested through the district’s DPP office, reviewed, and notification sent to the school whether or not it was granted.  Next year, students will have a five-day window after their sixth absence to have a discussion with their principal and request a good faith contract.  The contract states that they will not accumulate additional unexcused absences and will continue to be eligible to participate.  Once they accumulate one additional unexcused tardy or absence, or if they accumulate additional unexcused absences before the good faith contract is signed, they will forfeit the opportunity to participate.

“The goal is to teach students how important attendance is,” said Sears.  “In school, it might cause you to miss your prom and senior trip,  in the workplace it may cost you your job.”

Additional details about the waiver process and the entire attendance policy will be distributed to families at the beginning of the school year in the district’s code of conduct handbook.  Families are encouraged to use the Infinite Campus Parent Portal website and Parent App to monitor their child’s attendance throughout the year.  Families are also reminded to submit parent notes and doctor’s excuses within a week of the absence.