Committee passes updated attendance policy for East Providence schools

Attempts are made to better define excused or unexcused absences, tardiness

By Mike Rego
Posted 7/11/19

EAST PROVIDENCE — In theory, if not in practice, the district will have a more clearly defined attendance policy beginning with the start of the 2019-20 term this fall after the School Committee …

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Committee passes updated attendance policy for East Providence schools

Attempts are made to better define excused or unexcused absences, tardiness

Posted

EAST PROVIDENCE — In theory, if not in practice, the district will have a more clearly defined attendance policy beginning with the start of the 2019-20 term this fall after the School Committee passed a series of amendments at its meeting Tuesday night, July 9.

The effort to revise the policy was led on the committee side by members Jessica Beauchaine and Karen Oliveira. Ms. Beauchaine, who expressed some reservations with the final product, ultimately cast the lone dissenting lot against the revised policy in what was a 4-1 vote.

A stated purpose of the policy now reads, “Regular, prompt attendance is a District requirement for each and every student enrolled in District schools as it is essential for the students’ academic success.”

In expressing her support for the amended policy, Mrs. Oliveira, a former teacher in the district, said, “One of the reasons why I ran for this seat is to adjust this attendance issue. You can’t do your job if the kids aren’t in front of you. It’s frustrating. It’s extremely frustrating.”

The committee backed the changes following lengthy discussions a week ago and at its last meeting in June. During the preamble to the vote last week, Director of Operations Diana Clarkin told the committee nearly 900 students across the district, almost one in five of the 5,200 students total, were absent 10 or more times this past term, which accelerated the urgency to address the situation.

The updated definition of terms are as follows:

Excused Absences — Excused absences include a student’s participation in an approved school-sponsored activity, documented college visits, suspension days, religious holidays, bereavement, a doctor-excused illness or injury (doctor’s written excuse must be submitted no later than two (2) school days following the absence), a school nurse-teacher excused illness or injury, court appearance, military deployment event or dismissal from school by school Principal or designee.

Unexcused Absences — Unexcused absences include but are not limited to any absence in which the student and/or parent/guardian fails to comply with the District’s attendance policy and procedures and includes any and all absences not listed as excused absences above. Unexcused absences count toward attendance policy limits.

Tardiness — Being tardy is defined as arriving after school begins. Students arriving by bus who are delayed are not considered tardy. Parents/guardians, as well as, students should know the start and end time of their respective school day.

Chronic absenteeism is now addressed as follows: After four unexcused absences per quarter, which may include tardies and/or early dismissals, parents will be contacted and provided a copy of the attendance policy for their review; After eight unexcused absences, a meeting with the parent or guardian of the student will be requested; and after 10 unexcused absences at any time of the year, the student/parent or guardian will be referred for a pre-truancy meeting with the case potentially being forward to Family Court.

On the latter topic of tardiness, the committee agreed with the parameters set forth at its June meeting. If late, students in Kindergarten to fifth grade must be brought to school by a parent or guardian. Middle and high school students can arrive late with a note. The committee again agreed when a younger student appears at school, regardless of how they got there, they would be allowed in the building.

After the meeting, committee Chairman Charlie Tsonos, who joined Mrs. Oliveira, Tony Ferreira and Joel Monteiro in voting for the updates, said the revised policy “puts definitions on being tardy and being absent with or without an excuse.” Mr. Tsonos added another reason for updating the policy was to create uniformity in the way absences and tardiness are handled by principals at each of the schools, more so at the elementary level.

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