Midland schools work with families to avoid absenteeism during pandemic

While school attendance and truancy will always be on the radar of school districts, Midland Public Schools Associate Superintendent Jeff Jaster said MPS is currently taking into consideration the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges it faces. she creates for students and their families.

“We need to do our best to monitor situations as they change and evolve,” said Jaster, who oversees administration and student services for MPS. “We also try to support the students. We hope to never have a reputation for being just punitive, especially when it comes to truancy. We will be working with families much sooner than we would in the past and we will also be far from a better understanding of difficult circumstances. “

Jaster said 10 unexcused absences per semester is the “threshold” beyond which MPS considers a student to be truant.

“That being said, there are exceptions. Certainly COVID is a consideration, so it won’t be held against students,” Jaster said in reference to cases where parents or guardians keep children at home in the classroom. ‘school out of an abundance of caution even if they are not medically required to do so.

“A typical case of absenteeism, at least the ones I saw entering the court system last year, has been 20 or 30 or more absences where the student is simply not present,” a- he added.

In all cases, school principals will contact parents from the start in order to try to avoid a case of absenteeism.

Eddie Hinson is a school resources officer for Midland High School and the Midland Police Department. Its functions are to protect students and staff, while ensuring the security of the building. He also assists MPS in cases of school absenteeism.

However, this does not mean that the resource manager takes care of the cases. Hinson said the principle or head assistant would contact him if a student did not come to school. From there, it will contact or attempt to contact the parents and let them know that they need to call the school about it.

“Maybe as soon as five, six, seven absences, the administrators will contact the house at that time to understand the circumstances that caused the absences,” Jaster said. “There may be a meeting with the parents. Many administrators are trying to make an absenteeism agreement. But the goal is to work with the family to find solutions to the problems that may be hindering this student’s attendance.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic, Hinson noticed a slight decrease in the number of truancy calls from school when classrooms were virtual.

If the administrator believes he has done everything possible to resolve a problem and the absences continue, MPS will involve the probate court.

“Once there’s been a good faith effort, if the problem doesn’t improve and the absences increase, a referral will go to the probate court system for review. Jaster said. “In the most serious cases, this could lead to the assignment of a probation officer. And the consequences are ultimately decided by the probation officer and the court system. Again, we work in partnership with families. to prevent that from happening. “

Jaster said that during the 2020-21 school year, the Midland County Estates Court was more lenient than normal in terms of absenteeism.

“At one point, the justice system was not actively pursuing issues of truancy given the number of COVID cases,” he said. “As we are back to normal in some areas, (absences) will be monitored more closely. And I expect truancy cases to be monitored more closely this year.”

Comply with state requirements for attendance

Tracking overall student attendance in a district is essential to ensure both that a district meets the required minimum of 180 teaching days per year and that it receives the amount of state funding it receives. he needs.

In the 2020-21 school year, Jaster explained, the Michigan Department of Education temporarily changed the requirements for a school day to count as a teaching day. While normally 75% of students must be present on a given day for that day to count as a teaching day, this benchmark last year was changed to require each student to have at least two two-way interactions with one teacher each. . the week. This has adapted to the distance learning format that prevailed in many districts last year, including for a minority of MPS students.

Now the state has returned to the 75% requirement, Jaster said.

“This is obviously a much stricter requirement and it has been in place for decades,” he said. “This is the standard we have returned to this year, although we are still in what most would consider pandemic circumstances.”

But returning to the 75% standard has not been a problem for MPS, Jaster said, noting that the district’s average weekly attendance rate was over 95% for each of the first five weeks of this school year.

“For the past year, based on much more lenient accounting rules, we have on average around 93% of students with two two-way interactions with a teacher each week,” he said.

Count the days

Last Wednesday, October 7, was a key day for the state’s school districts, being the second and by far the most important of the two “count days” in each calendar year that determine the amount of funding a district receives. receives from the state.

The counting days fall on the second Wednesday in February (February 10, 2021) and the first Wednesday in October of each year.

According to MPS, the number of students audited in the spring tally is weighted at 10% of the district total and the number of students audited in the fall tally is weighted at 90% of the district total. Once the formula is applied and those numbers released, districts will typically receive their first state aid payment of the school year at the end of October.

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