McDowell County Schools revised their attendance policy for all students in the system effective with the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.

This streamlined process began with the collaborative efforts of the Attendance Policy Review Committee. The committee met four times from February to May to examine, analyze and revise the attendance policy.

"The goal in revising the attendance policy is to reflect the importance of attendance in McDowell County Schools,” said Natalie Gouge, director of student services and member of the attendance committee. “ We have made this a priority by creating the expectations that students attend school. We look forward to engaging with our parents and community in this effort and making a commitment to school attendance. “We want the message to be to every child that education is a priority in McDowell County for every family and community member and that going to school every day is critical to his or her success,”

Research shows that one of the most important basic things a child can do to achieve academic success is going to school every day. In fact, a child's attendance is one of the biggest factors influencing their academic success, Gouge said.

There are numerous benefits of attending school daily such as increased levels of achievement, career and college opportunities, being part of the school community, realizing the importance of education, graduating and beyond.

The Attendance Policy Review Committee was composed of school personnel from across the county representing schools in the district. Three major revisions were made to Policy 4400 Attendance based on recommendations from the committee.

The definition of “present” was redefined for both elementary and secondary students.

"A student in (Kindergarten through thirteenth grade) must be present at least seventy-five percent (75%) of the school’s instructional day to be recorded present for that day. A student in ninth through thirteenth (9th-13th) grade must be present at least seventy-five percent (75%) of the class period to be recorded present for that class period."

As always, students are expected to arrive on time and remain in school the full day. Tardies and early checkouts will be closely monitored; however, the previous policy that stated "three tardies equal one absence" is no longer applicable. Each school's principal will deal appropriately, as outlined in the policy, with students who are chronically tardy or leave school early.

Jill Ward, principal at Old Fort Elementary and a member of the Attendance Policy Review Committee stated in a news release from the county office, "Our students are important to us and they are missed when they are not in the building."

Class attendance and participation are critical elements of the educational process and may be taken into account in assessing academic achievement; therefore, the section on "Excessive Absences" was revised at both the elementary and secondary level.

At the secondary level, the issue of when a student may lose credit for a course was reviewed and the recommended revisions were approved by the Board of Education.

"A student absent more than six (6) times in the same class period in a semester shall not receive credit for that class. However, the student must continue in the class with appropriate behavior and must complete required work. Students who lose credit for absences but who are passing the course(s) may make up the credit by attending the after-school enrichment sessions or the summer school enrichment class."

Many of the recommendations for the revisions came from the N.C. State Board of Education (Policies to Lead the Schools) in the regular updates McDowell County Schools receive based on legislative changes. Also, the Attendance Policy Review Committee, in conjunction with input from other personnel directly involved in attendance issues, diligently and thoroughly reviewed the policy and suggested updates that would be the most beneficial to our students and school system. The final review and recommendations for revisions were given by the board’s attorney Christopher Campbell, of Campbell and Shatley.

The recommended policy revisions were approved by the Board of Education on June 13.

To view the policy in full, click on the PDF attached to article online at mcdowellnews.com