Public school students in Milford who miss 10 or more school days in a semester could fail their courses or be retained in their current grade under a proposed attendance policy up for a vote next week.
“There have been concerns over students missing a lot of time, particularly graduating seniors,” said Paul Walmsley, the director of personnel for the Milford School District and a member of the district’s policy review committee. “When kids get their diplomas after missing a lot of school days, there is a question of how much value does that diploma have and what message are we sending.”
Currently, Milford School District’s attendance policy says the district will issue warning letters to parents or guardians regarding truancy court following a student’s fifth unexcused absence. Parents and guardians are then to be referred to truancy court following a student’s 30th unexcused absence during a school year, as required by state law.
However, the current policy does not spell out any penalties for students who are frequently absent or late to school.
The Milford school board is expect to vote Monday on a new policy that, if approved, would require students in the eighth grade or higher who accrue 10 excused or unexcused absences from a semester-long course or 20 absences from a year-long course to be automatically denied course credit, while younger students would be retained in their current grade.
Under the proposed policy, students who are 16 and older also could be expelled for missing 15 days from a semester course or 30 days from a yearlong course.
“The school year is only 180 days long and each semester is 90 days, so if a student is missing 10 days in a semester that’s more than 10 percent of the learning time,” Walmsley said. “This is also preparing them for the workforce, because clearly you can’t do your job if you’re missing one out of every 10 days.”
In addition to new penalties, the proposed policy would create an appeal process in which each school building would have its own committee made up of school staff to hear attendance appeals.
Under the appeal process, parents and guardians would have five school days after being notified of their student’s credit denial or retention to seek a hearing before a building attendance appeal committee.
The committees would be required to render their decisions within three days of a review hearing. Their decisions could, in turn, be appealed to Milford School District Superintendent Phyllis Kohel or her designee.
While warning letters regarding absences would not be issued until a student accrues their tenth unexcused absence, the proposed policy states that “letters to parent/guardian and phone calls … will be used throughout the school year to inform parents/guardians and students of the accumulation of both EXCUSED and UNEXCUSED absences.”
Page 2 of 2 - Walmsley said he was not certain of how often those notices would be issued. But he did note that student absences are reported on progress reports and report cards.
“Parents also can call into the school and ask about the number of absences at any time,” he said.
Absences from school or classes resulting from school-sponsored activities, such as athletics, field trips and college visits, would not count toward a student’s absentee record under the proposed policy.
If approved by the school board at its 7 p.m. meeting Monday, the new policy would take effect immediately.
To view the proposed policy in its entirety, click here.