According to Jorgenson, the high school has an attendance rate of 90 percent, adding, at first, that might not sound so bad; However, putting that in perspective, Jorgenson said that means, on average, there are 33 students missing every day.
An effective education can only happen when students are at the place where teaching is happening.
The issue for RVHS is students are not there as school officials would like them to be.
“We do have an issue with attendance,” said Rick Jorgenson this past Monday night during a presentation for the Redwood Area Board of Education.
The discussion regarding attendance was held as part of the school board’s regular meeting, which was held at city hall in Redwood Falls due to construction taking place at the school.
Jorgenson raised the issue of attendance at the school board’s May meeting, and as a result of that discussion Jorgenson was given the green light to come up with a new idea that would encourage more students to get to school.
According to Jorgenson, the high school has an attendance rate of 90 percent, adding, at first, that might not sound so bad.
However, putting that in perspective, Jorgenson said that means, on average, there are 33 students missing every day.
The traditional approach to attendance issues, whether it be when a student is tardy or when their absence from school is unexcused, has been to punish them with grade reductions or to give them detention.
Those punitive eff-orts have not worked, said Jorgenson, who said he would like to give a different ap-proach this year – off-ering privileges for those who are there.
The policy change was approved by the school board, and it is going to be in effect for the 2015-16 school year.
Jorgenson said the proposed policy change was introduced to the staff and to some students, and, while there were some concerns with the idea, the overall response was positive.
“This is a pretty big proposal, and it will be a work in progress that evolves over time,” said Jorgenson, adding what is most important for this to be successful is for staff and coaches to follow through with it.
He added it is also going to require buy-in from parents.
One incentive that should convince parents that the idea is a good one is the reimbursement of participation and parking fees. Under the policy students who have a 95 percent attendance rate, who have zero unexcused absences, have three or fewer tardies in a semester and have zero disciplinary referrals would qualify for a 50 percent refund of the parking fee per semester and a 33 percent refund of participation fees for all activities each season.
On the other side, those who are tardy or who have unexcused absences would lose privileges, including participation in activities, such as homecoming, dances and extra-curricular events.
“If a student is not in school and that absence is not excused they will not play,” Jorgenson said, adding they would not even attend events.
Wayne Junker, school board member, said the school’s current system is one that is not working, adding it has set students up to fail.
Jorgenson said the proposal is a novel idea that has not been tried before to his knowledge, but he believes it will have a positive outcome.
“There are going to be some kids who test it, especially at the beginning to see if we really mean it,” said Rick Ellingworth, RASD superintendent. “The students are earning privileges under this proposal. It is not about rewards. It is about helping them make the right choice.”
In other action during its meeting, the school board:
• Held a discussion regarding the future of the school’s mental health services. The discussion included those who are currently providing those services, as well as other entities that could provide them.
Provision of mental health has been an investment made by the school through its social work, counseling and psychology programs, with added service provided through funds it receives from the Redwood County collaborative.
The board is going to continue to talk about this issue to come up with a long-term plan that addresses the needs of students but also ensures the funds coming into the district are being used correctly.