For Fairness’ Sake, LCUSD Relaxes Attendance Policy

Upon further review, the La Cañada Unified School District announced some modifications to the attendance policy published at the start of the school year.
Initially, the district recommended that teachers not allow students to make up work for unexcused absences, including those for club sports events, family responsibilities and sibling responsibilities.
At least one parent objected to that part of the policy, saying at a recent Governing Board meeting that it seemed unfair to good students who have what she considered legitimate excuses for missing school.
“There were some concerns raised … that [the rules] were a little draconian,” Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said at Tuesday’s Governing Board meeting. “So we have made some minor modifications.”
The adjustments, according to Sinnette, are an effort to ensure that the rules function “consistently,” “fairly,” and are “student-, staff- and family-centric.”
Under the revised policy, which was detailed in an email sent out last week to the families of students attending La Cañada High School and LCHS 7/8, students who are absent from class on account of family or club sports commitments may make up missed work.
“With regard to those types of absences, it is within a school administrator’s role … to make decisions on the application of education code to absences,” Sinnette wrote in the email. “In the cases above, [LCHS Assistant Principal Mary] Hazlett or [LCHS 7/8 Principal Jarrett] Gold will determine, based on the written evidence or documentation presented to them, whether the absence is unexcused or excused.”
If Hazlett or Gold approves an absence, it will be deemed a “W,” which falls under administrator approval for personal reasons, an issue that is at the discretion of school administrators.
Sinnette said she asked that Hazlett and Gold keep a running tally of “Ws” to monitor for consistency.
As always, teachers are required to provide makeup work for any excused absence, Sinnette said, adding that the district also eased up on the recommendation that teachers prohibit makeup work for unexcused absences.
“We thought that recommendation did have a little bit of a draconian lilt to it,” she said. “And so it has been replaced.”
The attendance policy now reads: “Students who are absent without written, verified and justifiable personal reasons or students who have returned to school without a note need not be given the opportunity to complete coursework, homework or tests missed.”
LCUSD’s reexamination of attendance policy this year did not stem from a problem with attendance; Sinnette reported Tuesday that LCUSD’s attendance rate averages 97% or higher.
“The district reviewed and updated its attendance policies motivated by the fact that attendance is becoming an increasingly important measure in school district accountability with the state of California,” Sinnette said, “and, more importantly, because we value the students’ daily presencein the learning environment to ensure they’re successful.”
Attendance is now among the defining measures of the accountability system that will replace the Academic Performance Index, according Lindi Dreibelbis, LCUSD’s chief director of assessment.
The district’s financial budget is also affected by attendance: LCUSD receives $41.09 from the state each day a student is in school. Sinnette said a 1% dip in attendance during the second semester last year cost the district almost $200,000 in funding.
“So we need to be aware of this very important metric,” Sinnette said, “and also aware of its impact on our budget.”

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