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Skyline High working to combat chronic absences

20 January 2020 Front Royal/Warren County News

With school-wide chronic absences reaching almost 30 percent last year, administrators at Skyline High School (SHS) have come up with various solutions. One of the most effective practices currently being used has been an administrators knock on the door at the home of a regularly absent student.

“We have gone to several homes of students who don’t want to come to school after we’ve called the parents, who say they just can’t get them there. So I said, ‘Do you mind if I come to your house?’” SHS Principal Michael Smith explained to members of the Warren County School Board during the work session portion of their Jan. 15 regular meeting.

“It’s been pretty effective because the principal is standing there at the front door, almost at their bedroom door, opening it up and asking, ‘Why aren’t you at school?’ The parents get a good kick out of it and it works for the kids; they don’t want us coming back to their house,” said Smith.

During his presentation to the school board, Smith said that SHS had an academic review on Nov. 6, 2019. The overall findings and problem identified during the review was that chronic absenteeism at SHS received a Level III performance standing, meaning accredited with conditions.

In addition to the home visits, teacher mentors are assigned to chronically absent students for daily and weekly contact. The goal is for the mentor to get information from the student on why he or she isn’t attending school. The data the teacher mentors put into an online Google form describes when they met with students, what they talked about, and what they determined were some possible solutions. Smith said this data also provides useful evidence for future decision-making around making individualized attendance plans.

Other practices take a simpler approach, such as teachers greeting students as they enter the classrooms and administrators greeting students in the morning as they’re entering the building. These are county-wide polices aimed at fostering positive relationships across entire schools.

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