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School Absences Are Academic Losses

Community Contributed

By Laura Peterson, Molokai Resource Teacher

The elementary schools and high school on Molokai have recently made revisions to their attendance policies.  This is for a good reason.  There is a clear correlation between, for example, missing school in Kindergarten and first grade, and mastering reading by the third grade.  Another correlation is that attendance in the ninth grade is directly related to successful graduation and post-secondary enrollment.

Illness is the first and foremost reason students can’t go to school.  It is important to keep them home when they are sick, but studies show that fewer than six percent of children miss more than 11 days due to illness.   Sometimes students can’t go to school for other reasons, such as caring for younger siblings, helping with the family business, extended trips off-island, and going to non-sickness related doctor appointments, such as dental appointments.  As parents, you can help your child by scheduling things around school days or school hours.

Another reason students might not go to school is to avoid an unpleasant situation or because an assignment was not completed.  In this instance, it is important to get to the root of the reason and work with the school to solve it.  Maybe your child is being harassed or bullied, or feels embarrassed to be called on to read aloud in class.  The problem compounds after the student misses school and falls behind academically.  Every school on this island wants to work with families as partners to address issues that come up in school, and welcome communication from the home.

In some cases, family planning can help by making sure that school clothes are out, homework is done, backpacks are ready, and transportation is timely to avoid being late.  Nine to 11 hours of sleep are recommended for school-aged children.  The more we can support our kids in feeling prepared, the better!

School attendance habits start early.  Start in Pre-K and Kindergarten to establish a family routine that enables school attendance.  The more the family makes it a priority, the better the outcome for the student.  Margaret Blount, our Molokai Complex social worker, is available to assist families with issues such as transportation or communication with the school.  She can be reached at 553-1723.


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