School attendance policies should now support bulletin 741- which does not outline a maximum of number of days a student can miss.
According to Kevin Washington, Child Welfare Supervisor, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) policy has always outlined how many days a student must be present and has been interpreted in the past by how many days a student can miss.
"This can be misguiding, so we really want parents to understand that it is important to get your children to school and that there is a minimum number of days the child must be present in order to receive credit."
Washington said attendance is essential to student achievement as well as being on time and being prepared.
"When students are present and prepared for school each day, studies show us that we tend to get positive results," he said. "We can almost identify students who will struggle by their early attendance patterns."
According to Washington the BESE attendance policy was always based on the number of days present.
"People would take that information and interprete as the number of days you could miss," he said. "Mrs. Sharp, the interim superintendent, Mr. Busby, the Secondary Supervisor and I talked about the policy changes and the best way to explain it to parents. Now it is in terms of minutes and days present."
Elementary students must be present a minimum of 167 days to receive credit. High school students on semester schedules, not including block schedules, must be present 83.5 days per semester. Students on block schedule must be present 167 days.
"We don't like to talk to about how many days a student can miss, because policy never talks about it in those terms," Washington said. "When you say there are a number of days a student can miss, it becomes an issue."
Washington also stressed parents should always send a note whenever their child is absent.
"No matter the reason, we always want to document why the child is not in school," he said.
Parents have five days to send the note in form the time they are absent. If absences become problematic, truancy steps in.
"We want to avoid families going through the truancy process," Washington said. "We want to stress the importance of good attendance, but parents should know we do have policies in place for truancy issues and that we have a very good working relationship with the 26th Judicial Court."
For students in K-8, at the fifth tardy or unexcused absence, students are considered habitually absent, and notice is sent to the 26th Judicial Court and the Webster Parish School Board.
Washington noted that parents may have difficulty obtaining doctor's excuses at times.
"It is still difficult for some families in our area to get students to the doctor," he said. "However, parents should still document what is going on so we know.
"I noticed we had doctors and other medical personal giving free screenings at the Back to School Bash," Washington continued. "It just goes to show the community really does support education."
Washington also reminded students of last school year's attendance "thank you," which was donated by the Shreveport Captains. More than 700 tickets to a baseball game along with free coke and hot dog were available for students who had good attendance and exemplary behavior.
"We were able to get them over to a Captain's baseball game during the day and they really had a good time," Washington said. "It is so nice to be able to show students appreciation for a job well done.
"We are just so appreciative of our business community," he continued. "With donations such as the Captain's and with the Back to School Bash, the business and community support shows that people want our students to succeed and that our community believes education is important."
Washington also said attendance is important for schools, principals and community.
"Part of the School Performance Score comes from average daily attendance," Washington explained. "Parents can help us improve our school's scores and school report cards if they make sure their child is present and on time. We really believe that having the student at school every day will also impact their academics, because if they are not there, the student is not receiving the instruction.
"All of this information reflects on the school and principal report card, and parents can help us," Washington continued. "You can look at it as a community report card, because it reflects the support of parents."
Last year Webster Parish was above the state average in daily attendance.
"But only slightly above average," Washington said. "We want to be above the state average. I think we can do better. I just honestly think we are better than that in Webster."
Parents who have concerns about attendance can call the Webster Parish School Board at 377-7052.