Greene Co school board tweaks attendance policy

Also okays use of Grow Greene County funds and athletic training contract

A new attendance policy approved by the Greene County board of education July 20 as part of the student/parent handbook for the coming school year is both good news and bad news for students.

The good news is that students will no longer be sidelined from an athletic practice for getting to class late. The bad news is that all tardiness will have consequences for all students, including those who aren’t involved in extra-curricular or co-curricular activities.

The attendance policy was raised as a topic of concern at the board’s open forum in April. The policy in effect the past two school years has required students to be at school the entire day not only to compete, but to practice. Coaches were asked to check the school’s Infinite Campus attendance program before athletic practices and sideline students who had been late to class, even just a few minutes late.

The intention of the policy was to motivate students to be on time for class. As parents pointed out in April, students not participating in an activity were not punished for tardiness.

In board discussions, several board members and superintendent Tim Christensen spoke of timeliness as an employability skill. “I’m not so certain that employability skills aren’t more important than the content we teach,” Christensen said.

The new policy answers a question board member Mike Dennhardt asked in April: “Whatever happened to detention?”

The new policy still requires students to be at school for an entire day to compete or perform. However, tardiness is handled by teachers, not coaches. Under the new policy, teachers should give students verbal warnings for the first and second tardy, and then assign classroom detentions for the third and fourth tardy. (If a student athlete misses part of a practice because he or she had to serve a classroom detention, consequences for the tardiness would be up to the coach or activities director.)

For tardies five through eight in the same class, students will serve a 30 minute detention in the office before or after school. A ninth tardy will be met with in-school suspension for up to a full day. A tenth tardy will be punished by up to a full day of out-of-school suspension.

Principal Brian Phillips said he and at-risk counselor Emily Gannon review attendance and that if a student is repeatedly tardy in more than one class, one of them will deal with it.

The counter on tardies is reset every trimester.

Veteran board member Sam Harding acknowledges that the attendance policy is a work in progress. “I don’t think we’re there yet. This one probably has flaws, too,” he said.

“I think we’ve got a lot of bases covered, more than just the sports kids. We’ve got it covered for all the kids. I like that. I think the policy is better,” board member John McConnell said.

In other business, the board approved spending $43,353 of the $68,000 the school received from Grow Greene County. Of the total, $35,538 will go to purchase 125 Chromebooks and the necessary charging equipment and licenses so that all students in grades 3-8 will have their own Chromebook to use. (The high school became a 1:1 Chromebook school three years ago.)

Another $7,800 will be used for new chairs and new flooring in the Ram Restaurant at the high school.

The board will likely approve purchasing an updated science curriculum with the remaining $25,000. The administration did not have a specific curriculum to recommend for purchase at the July meeting.

The board approved a $5,500 contract with 21st Century Rehab for athletic trainer services at athletic events during the coming school year. McFarland Clinic had a lower bid but asked for an additional amount for mileage to away football games. Board members expressed an intention to alternate years between the two providers. McFarland Clinic had the contract for the 2015-16 school year.

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