M-CHS notifying parents of kids’ truancy

Superintendent equates absences to a missed school year; make-up sessions announced

Montezuma-Cortez High School officials are telling parents about excessive absenteeism.

In a recent letter, school officials notified parents that high school students missed 22,275 class periods during the first semester of the 2013-14 school year.

“This equates to an average of five days per student, one full week out of 18 weeks of school,” wrote Ed Rice, the school’s career technical education director.

Of the total absences, 13,800 were unverified, meaning students skipped class without proper parental documentation. Family excused missed class periods totaled 8,475. Absences for school activities and medical excuses were not included in the figures.

Rice told The Cortez Journal that students who skip class are missing valuable instruction, and in the end, the entire class is placed at a disadvantage.

“When teachers have to spend time to update the student that skipped class, the whole class pays for the absence, because the other students are ready to move forward with other lessons,” Rice said.

At the start of the 2013-14 academic year, school officials set a goal of 95 percent attendance. At the end of the first semester, the Montezuma-Cortez High School attendance was 89.5 percent.

At the beginning of the school year, Montezuma-Cortez School Superintendent Alex Carter revealed a new campaign: “Be present. Every day counts.” Aimed at both teachers and parents, Carter explained that even with a 90 percent attendance rate, a student has accumulated 180 absences by the sophomore year – equivalent to an entire school year.

“Which grade do we want our students to skip?” he questioned. “Should we take away third grade? What about fifth grade?”

“Let’s send our kids to school,” he proclaimed.

In the letter, Rice announced two new policies. After the fourth absence, parents would be contacted by phone. After six missed class periods, the school would take administrative action, including mandatory after make-up sessions on Wednesday and Saturday.

“Most of the parents are very appreciative of the telephone calls,” said Rice.

Officials urged parents to utilize the school’s online PowerSchool program to check their child’s absences. The student information system enables parents to check their child’s grades.

“We need (the parents) help to reach maximum student learning through higher attendance rates,” Rice concluded in his letter.

Districtwide, absenteeism has steadily dropped in recent years. During the 2009-10 academic year, daily attendance at all schools across the district was 88.7 percent. In the 2012-13 school year, the attendance rate had climbed to 91.7 percent.

tbaker@cortezjournal.com