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Excused or Unexcused is Not the Issue

Community Contributed

By Laura Peterson, Molokai Resource Teacher

You may be hearing more about the importance of consistent attendance in school these days.  Attendance in school is critical for keeping up with academics that are increasingly rigorous.

Many schools are taking research-proven steps to reach out to students who are absent.  An example of this would be a short face-to-face conference with a student upon return.  Another would be an offer to help students catch up on missed work, or a peer-to-peer tutoring program where a buddy is assigned to help the student catch up.  A home visit by school personnel or the school social worker is important if the concern needs to be personally delivered to the home.

All schools on Molokai agree that early intervention with students that are showing absentee patterns is critical before these students get too far behind.  According to Janice Espiritu, principal of Kaunakakai Elementary School, “Elementary school principals will be meeting over winter break to discuss and revise our Elementary School Attendance Policy,” (also known as ESAP).

One of the differences in schools now is that being excused or unexcused does not matter very much.  An absence is still counted as an absence for the school, even if the student is sick.  The reasons for this are numerous.  Studies show that the number of absences in the fifth grade can clearly predict whether the student will be at risk in high school.  Students that are absent often lose important academic time and fall behind their peers.

Molokai High School has made changes to its attendance policy this year to try and intervene with students before they lose too much academic time and fall behind.  With the help of the principal, the vice-principal, the on campus police officer, the school counselor, and the attendance clerk, positive steps are being taken to address students starting at five absences, either excused or unexcused.

“Molokai High School feels it’s important for students to be in school,” said principal Stan Hao.  “Whenever they miss, they miss out on opportunities to further their education.  Attendance has many applications for future success, whether a student wants to further their education or start in the workplace.”

Daniel Espaniola, MHS vice-principal, had this to say to the high school students on Molokai, “Don’t end up a fool, get up and go to school!”

If your child is often reluctant to go to school, you may want to try and find out the underlying reason.  Frequently absent students usually give one of three reasons.

Some students cannot attend because or illness, work situation, family obligations, or housing concerns.  Some students will not attend because of bullying, harassment, or embarrassment at school or on the bus.  Some students just do not attend because they don’t see the value of school or would rather do something else.

As parents, it is important to communicate with the school if you find out something that is making your child reluctant to attend.  Together, school staff, parents, and students can address problems and solve them.  Let’s work together to reduce student absences!


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