Wicomico Schools Implement New Attendance Policy

SALISBURY – Despite efforts to address lingering questions, Wicomico County’s school superintendent said a new attendance procedure is being well received.

In a Wicomico County Board of Education meeting this week, Superintendent of Schools Donna Hanlin announced the successful implementation of new student attendance procedures.

“Anytime there is change, there are going to be people with questions, so we have been working with our school administrators to answer those questions,” she said. “Mostly positive response to the new procedure and the importance of students being in school and holding students accountable for being in school.”

At the start of the 2019-2020 academic year, the school system adopted a new policy and procedure outlining standards for regular attendance and new corrective actions for unexcused absences.

“Students may be excused from class or school only for reasons as specified in state law, regulation and this procedure,” the document reads. “The actions taken when the standard is not met should reflect a continuum of interventions and consequences aimed at improving student attendance and achievement.”

The idea of the new procedure is to support consistent, full-day attendance. Students who have more than five unexcused absences in a marking term must now complete an attendance intervention plan to avoid failing the marking term. The intervention plan may involve a student staying after school for up to two hours a day with the parent or guardian responsible for transportation.

While the first marking term – which ends Nov. 6 – will be considered a “no fault” period as students, parents and guardians become familiar with the new attendance policy and procedure, students who have five or more unexcused absence will still be required to complete an attendance intervention plan.

Beyond the “no fault” period, students who do not complete the required intervention plan will see an impact on their course grades, which can result in a reduced grade point average and loss of eligibility for extracurricular activities.

Continued unexcused absences beyond the five days can result in referral to outside agencies through the Truancy Reduction Program.

As the school system continues to address concerns and questions from parents, Hanlin said they also continue to monitor a potential state law that would implement stricter attendance policies.

“It will be, if passed, more strict than what we have proposed,” she said. “They are looking at a student potentially failing – not earning credit at the high school level – if they miss 5% of their days, either in a semester or a full-year course of unlawful absences with no mention of intervention plans.”

Hanlin said any changes at the state level would require the county to revise its newly adopted attendance procedure.

“We’ll keep an eye on what’s going on at the state level,” she said.

Students, parents and guardians are encouraged to review the Student Attendance Policy and Student Attendance Procedure to know the rules for excused and unexcused absences for everything from family vacations to college and employer visits to student illness or death in the immediate family.

For more information, visit the school system’s website at www.wcboe.org.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.