Tonawanda City School District officials are trying to address extensive absences by high school students, some of which lead to dropping out entirely, according to a report delivered during a regular School Board meeting this week.
The report came after the School Board questioned the district’s attendance report last month. At the Nov. 13 meeting, Special Education Director Amy Edgerton said some students have had as many as 38 unexcused absences during this school year, which started a little more than three months ago.
In the past, Tonawanda would allow 28 unexcused absences before the student would lose credit for a class, but that policy is not currently active.
High School Principal James Newton on Tuesday night updated the board about the attendance policy and dropout rate.
So far this school year, five seniors have dropped out of high school. Some were fifth- and sixth-year seniors.
“There are various reasons why a student might drop out,” Newton said.
When a student has a number of unexplained absences, the district initially calls the student’s home after five days.
If the problem continues, administrators extend their outreach and make a home visit. In some cases, Child Protective Services will be called, and a parent or guardian can be charged with educational neglect.
The district is using several methods to help engage at-risk students, such as teachers checking in with teenagers or students receiving a small incentive, like a candy bar, for attending school five days in a row.
Newton said administrators also are considering creating a new program with the University at Buffalo in which college students would work with Tonawanda students.
Tonawanda also asks dropouts to complete an exit survey about their time in the district. Newton pointed out one example in which a student blamed himself for dropping out but intended to earn his GED in the future.