Thursday, June 21, 2018
Education

Pasco board members criticize revision for school absences

LAND O'LAKES — A proposal that would allow students with unexcused absences to make up work and possibly receive full credit drew a visceral reaction Tuesday from Pasco County School Board members.

Presented by a special committee looking for ways to boost attendance, the idea was seen as a way to help address the district's absenteeism problem.

In 2012-13, more than one-third of Pasco high school students missed 20 or more days. Many of those absences were unexcused.

The committee, made up of top administrators, teachers, principals and other staff, proposed giving students full or partial credit in the event of an unexcused absence, and making it part of the 2015-16 student code of conduct.

Under the current code, students are guaranteed the right to make up work for excused absences only.

"I'm not going to vote for anything where the kid gets a 100 percent for an unexcused absence. That just floors me," board chairman Steve Luikart said at a workshop Tuesday. "I know what a zero does to a kid; it just devastates him. But I also understand that if I can miss math class tomorrow and get another day to study for that test, I'm going to do it."

Board member Cynthia Armstrong agreed that the proposal discounts the importance of being in class.

"I see a total train wreck," she said.

Carrie Morris, the student services senior supervisor, who gave the presentation, defended the chance for students to make up their work as being "in line with our vision as a district."

The committee suggested other, less controversial changes to the student code, including a policy to hold high school students accountable for missing too many classes and an amendment to the rule regarding extended absences. Under the latter proposal, a parent would have to present a doctor's note if a student accrues five absences in a month or 10 in a semester, even if they're excused. Without a note, the absences would become unexcused.

The board members will discuss absenteeism again at a workshop before their meeting on May 5. A second reading of the proposed changes is scheduled for the board meeting on May 19.

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 226-3446 or [email protected] Follow @josh_solomon15.

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