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School system sees increase in unexcused absences

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Managing Editor

There has been an increase in unexcused absences this school year for Chilton County Schools regardless of which option a student chose.

“There has been an increase in unexcused absences,” Celia Flanagan, attendance supervisor for Chilton County, said. “I, of course, contribute all of that to coronavirus.”

Directly related COVID-19 absences are excused, but documentation has to be given to the student’s school.

Some unexcused absences may be changed to excused once the paperwork is turned in. Flanagan said sometimes people just forget to turn it in, but the documentation will be applied whenever it is received.

Usually digital copies of needed documentation can be submitted electronically through email.

“A lot of it in the beginning was just educating on how to do the online attendance form,” Flanagan said.

Now, online learners are more familiar with the process.

PASS Academy Principal Laura Baker said ideally they would have had an in-person orientation for online learners, but this was not possible amidst social distancing concerns.

“Truancy law still applies for this school year,” Flanagan said. “We started at the very beginning of the school year checking with our no shows.”

Unexcused absences start being counted the very first day of school.

“After three unexcused, they get a letter from the school …after five unexcused, they will get a letter from me to attend the early warning meeting at the courthouse,” Flanagan said. “After seven unexcused absences they are considered truant.”

Absences for which the student submits a doctor’s note or parent note and documented COVID-19 quarantine or positive case absences are excused. The school nurse at each school handles the COVID-19 quarantine or positive cases paperwork.

Flanagan said those who need to be quarantined are determined by contact tracing.

Students who have chosen the online learning option are required to fill out the virtual attendance form every day by 8 p.m.

“We just want to make sure that all parents know that if they are having issues with doing the online attendance form, which is what students are required to do daily for attendance, to reach out to the school, and we can get that corrected or we can show them how to do it, if they don’t already know,” Flanagan said.

Anyone whose student is having issues with submitting work on the online platforms should contact their student’s teacher or school administrator.

“We know that parents are frustrated trying to work and help with their children’s education at home but it is very important that they visually check (that work was submitted),” Flanagan said.

Parents and guardians also still have the option to log in to iNow to see their students’ grades. Parents and guardians can contact their students’ school for information on setting this up.

Flanagan said students can change whether they are doing in-person or online learning by notifying their school that they want to change.

There are resources available to students who have chosen the online option available on the chilton.k12.al.us website by clicking on “Student/Parent resources” in the far left column, and then “Planning for Success.”

These resources include daily planners and tips for success. Some of these tips include planning ahead, having a specific place for the student to complete classwork each day and avoiding multi-tasking.

Baker said it is also important for parents “to actually follow up with their students and visually see … this is what I’ve done for the day.”

For students who chose the online option, keeping a routine similar to when they would have been attending in-person classes is recommended whenever possible.