School attendance is a powerful predictor of academic and social student outcomes. And, no matter how careful and prepared we are, occasional illnesses and family emergencies may cause us to miss one or more days of school or work. And we will be remiss not to acknowledge that the past two years have taught us that we can't always foresee what life will throw at us.
Before the pandemic, Texas had a problem with chronic absenteeism (excused or unexcused absences) in its schools. More than 740,000 students missed at least one-tenth of their instruction in 2019. Unfortunately, the pandemic has exacerbated chronic absenteeism. The negative effects of absenteeism on a student's education can be profound and often carry into adulthood. We are refocusing our efforts as a district to ensure that students attend school regularly.
Starting on page 28 of our Student Handbook, you will find information about two important state laws-one dealing with compulsory attendance and the other with how attendance affects a student's final grade or course credit. These laws have been in effect for many years. Our campuses will follow these laws consistently to ensure our students reach their highest potential.
State law allows exemptions to the compulsory attendance requirements for the following activities and events, as long as the student makes up all work:
- Religious holy days; - 1 day to and from travel plus holy day.
- Required court appearances; - 1 day travel to and from plus court appearance.
- Activities related to obtaining U.S. citizenship;
- Documented healthcare appointments for the student or a child of the student, including absences related to autism services, if the student returns to school on the same day of the appointment and brings a note from the healthcare provider;
- Absences resulting from a serious or life-threatening illness or related treatment that makes a student's attendance infeasible, with certification by a physician;
- For students in the conservatorship of the state: An activity required under a court-ordered service plan; or
- Any other court-ordered activity, provided it is not practicable to schedule the student's participation in the activity outside of school hours.
- For children of military families, absences of up to five days will be excused for a student to visit a parent, stepparent, or legal guardian going to, on leave from, or returning from certain deployments.
- Students who pursue enlistment in the U.S. armed services (Student Handbook page 29).
- Students who serve as an early voting clerk or election clerk (Student Handbook page 29).
- Students who sound "Taps" at a military honors funeral (Student Handbook page 29).
- Students who visit colleges or universities (Student Handbook page 29). Junior and Seniors get two days per school year.
The district will also allow excused absences for:
- Students who are sent home by a school nurse;
- Students who meet with their Probation Officers during school hours
- Students who test positive (home or lab-confirmed) for COVID-19 (Student Handbook page 32).
- Other events that have a broad impact on a campus or district.
Regardless if the absence is excused or unexcused, students should stay home if they are not feeling well or have symptoms of an infectious disease. Please do not send your sick student to school. Let them stay home to rest and recover. Students can make up work without penalty for excused and unexcused absences when they return.
We also ask parents and guardians to continue to provide notes for excused or unexcused absences (page 32 of the Student Handbook). These notes will assist the campus in assessing and responding to attendance needs and providing wraparound services when a student begins to display chronic absenteeism. For example, if a student misses several days due to illness but cannot be seen by a doctor, our social work team can assist the family with community healthcare resources and support. Knowing the causes and effects of a child being chronically absent can help inform solutions to reduce and ultimately eliminate this issue. Although eliminating chronic absenteeism may take years, school personnel can take steps now to help students attend and succeed in school.
If you have any questions regarding your child's attendance, don't hesitate to contact our attendance specialist, Gloria Mancias at Gloria.Mancias@pfisd.net