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Understanding the importance of attendance

From preschool to high school, the simple act of attending class presents opportunity in both academics and discipline, allowing a student to succeed.

As Nooksack Valley Schools looks toward Attendance Month in September, the district has placed a renewed focus on “being there,” trying to help educate and encourage families to have students attend school on a regular basis both in September and beyond.

Collin Buckley, dean of students at Nooksack Valley High School, says the high school will make a special effort to ensure all students fully benefit from their education by attending school regularly. Plus, he says, regular on-time attendance helps build important life skills that will last well beyond a K-12 education.

Often, he says, parents don’t understand that being absent two days a month adds up to missing 10 percent of the school year, enough to negatively affect a student’s academic performance. And by sixth grade, absenteeism is a leading warning sign that a student may drop out of high school. Whether the absences are excused or unexcused, they both represent lost time in a classroom and a lost opportunity to learn, which can lead to a student losing interest in school, increasing the likelihood of struggling with school or dealing with other difficulties.

“We miss your student when they are gone and we value their contributions to our school,” he wrote in a letter to parents. “We would like you to help ensure that your student attends regularly and is successful in school.”

To support students who do miss school, the high school is making a promise to help students facing challenges in getting to school regularly or on time. “We promise to track attendance daily, to notice when your student is missing from class, communicate with you to understand why they were absent and to identify barriers and supports available to overcome challenges you may face in helping your student attend school,” he writes.

To help with needed interventions and follow school policies and state laws, Nooksack Valley Schools will inform a parent in writing or by phone after one unexcused absence in a month. After three unexcused absences, the school is required to initiate a parent conference and possibly establish an attendance agreement to improve the student’s attendances. Any further unexcused absences in the year will enter the parent, student and school into an attendance agreement. Students in this category will be part of the Nooksack Valley Attendance Team’s focus.

Nooksack Valley suggests tips that range from setting regular night and morning routines, preparing for the next day of school the night before, not letting students stay home unless truly sick, avoiding extended trips and appointments during school hours, developing fallback plans for getting students to school, tracking attendance and encouraging meaningful afterschool activities to ensure students stay connected to the school community.