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‘Chronic absenteeism’ driving poor school district performance

It’s quite difficult to get a proper education when absent from school.

Nye County School District Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kim Friel said Jan. 13 there’s a strong relationship between poor attendance in the early grades and the likelihood that a student will later drop out of school.

To address the issue of “chronic absenteeism,” Friel told the Board of Trustees about the recent series of hearings held to examine the attendance issue.

“It was a very long and taxing day,” she said. “You hear all of the bad things that are going on in our kids’ lives, but with the chronic absenteeisms, we are attacking kindergarten, first, second and third grades. We are trying to deal with the younger students who have these chronic absenteeism problems to see if we can solve them.”

Friel noted that about 90 percent of the absentee hearings dealt with student health issues among the elementary grade levels, which she suggested, can be solved.

“We can get help for the parents,” she said. “Rather than letting it fester and continue until they get into high school, and then we can’t help them and it becomes a truancy issue.”

Friel also said at least one chronic absentee issue could have been handled by way of simple communication among parents, teachers and administrators.

“We found out that one of our children will have to have four ear surgeries every year for the next 12 years, and the parent never thought to tell the school that this was going to happen,” she said. “We can help him every time he’s going to have the surgeries. We can help him with a temporary homebound situation so he has a teacher and it doesn’t become a truancy where he misses school and he has another gap. The medical issues we can deal with and help them with.”

Additionally, Friel presented trustees with the tentative results of a recent attendance audit conducted by the district, where Round Mountain School received a perfect score.

The audit determines whether the district is providing transparent information on student enrollment and other issues.

“In the audits, they look for that we enrolled a student on the date that we say we enrolled the student, or that we’ve withdrawn a student on the proper date and that we didn’t try to keep a student past count day just so we could get the money,” she said. “It also ensures that we are keeping the attendance books correctly and accounting for each and every child.”

“We were really excited to hear about that,” she said. “The rest of the audit will be finalized Jan. 22nd after coming back from reviewing some issues with Hafen (elementary) and Pathways (middle and high school), but they are looking very good at this time.”

Student absenteeism aside, Friel said beginning on Jan. 31, district counselors will undergo training to better identify students who may be suffering with severe emotional issues.

“That means all of our counselors will have been trained to recognize our students who are at-risk for self-mutilation and suicide,” she said. “We can get them the help they need to send them and their parents down the right track.”

The assistant superintendent did however provide some positive news courtesy of students attending the district’s alternative education program this year.

“We had mid-year graduations at Pathways with 17 graduates in the adult education program and two from the fifth-year senior program,” she said. “We are very excited about the two from the fifth-year senior program because it means our fifth-year senior program is working.”

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