High school students skip half-days
SUMMIT COUNTY – Give an inch, they take a mile, the expression goes: Students had four half-days added to their school calendars this year, and many high school students took a whole day off.
Each of the eight schools in the district dismissed students at lunch-time Oct. 11. Most students attended school that day, but when compared to attendance figures from the Friday a week before, a large proportion of high school students were absent. Teachers marked 48 students absent on Oct. 4; on the half-day, 154 Summit High students were absent – almost 21 percent of the student body.
“If it were my kid, I’d be paying attention to what’s going on,” said Stew Adams, a Summit High parent-teacher organization officer last year when his son was a senior and whose daughter will enter the high school next year. “But maybe it never occurred to parents this might happen.”
Adams suggested high school principals send out notices to parents just prior to the half-days to remind them.
In scheduling the half-days, school board members worried parents would see them as an opportunity to schedule a three-day weekend getaway and pull their children out of school. Attendance comparisons at Summit’s elementay schools and middle school for the half-day and the week before show most students were in school. Adams concluded the high school absences were student initiated.
“It is Summit County after all, and people are cognizant of those opportunities,” he said. “It is a natural temptation. But it seems less likely though. You’d see absence numbers at the middle school and elementaries that reflect it.”
High school parent-teacher association president Barbie Bridge said she quesioned the effectiveness of half-days, adding that students can be distracted by the shortened schedule. Bridge said adding two full days to the schedule instead of splitting them up into four days might be better.
Assistant Superintendent Millie Hamner said attendance at the high school on Oct. 11 is a problem, but she said principals will examine how activities were scheduled on that day to make attendance more compelling to students.
The half-day actually was an extra half, as opposed to a half less. After voters approved a November 2001 mill levy, district officials added the four half-days to the schedule to make up for school days deleted during severe budget cutbacks six years ago. Teachers worked the remainder of the half-day, participating in a faculty training session focused on improving writing instruction.
How to schedule the half-days effectively is part of larger struggle to plan school-year calendars. District officials plan calendars up to three years in advance and struggle with teacher preferences and parent demands.
The school board will finalize the calendars for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years at its Dec. 11 meeting. The school district’s calendar committee is soliciting feedback from parents to help school board members iron out dates for school starts, breaks and long weekends. Hamner said board members would like more attendance data for half-days when they make their decision, but the next half-day is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2003.
Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or email@example.com.
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