As Waynesboro Schools staff and teachers consider ways to improve learning for students in kindergarten through 12th grades, showing up every day for school is an obvious way for students to achieve success.
The Waynesboro School Board heard a presentation from Waynesboro Schools Executive Director of Student Services Dr. Ryan Barber at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday night to recognize Attendance Awareness Month.
“We have a forward-thinking superintendent and school board,” said Barber Tuesday night at the Wayne Hills Center. “And I’m lucky to work here, but I think the thing that is really awesome is that we’re improving conditions for learning.”
“We Belong in School” is this year’s theme for Attendance Awareness Month, Barber said.
“And we believe that when our students are at school, they are getting what they need.”
However, multiple absences from school can hinder opportunities for students. Students with high attendance do well in school, and, Barber said, that translates when students go into the work place.
Chronic absences from school are considered 18 or more absences in an academic year, which puts students at risk for not succeeding in school. Eighteen absences in an academic year takes only two absences per month for sickness, doctor’s appointments or family trips, and equals 10 percent of the academic year.
Barber said that parents are encouraged to schedule doctor appointments in the afternoon after school, but he added that he does not want students coming to school ill.
“But, when you are ready to be in school, and you’re healthy and ready to go, we need you in school,” Barber said.
Kids need to feel safe physically and emotionally at school to prevent absences. School system staff is spending a lot of time looking at absentee data.
Showing up for school is important, and doing better in school is especially important for students coming from impoverished homes.
Barriers to getting to school, negative school experiences, lack of engagement with their school and misconceptions about school are all cited as reasons for absences, according to Barber.
Absenteeism data for Waynesboro Schools, which excludes Wayne Hills Center because pres-school students are not mandated by the state to attend school, show that the highest absences are at Waynesboro High and Wenonah Elementary School.
However, absences at all schools are under 15 percent, the state’s recommended rate for chronic absenteeism for a school to be at level 1, where Waynesboro Schools wants to be.
“We are really focused on making this difference in our schools, because we believe that when kids are here good things are happening,” Barber said.
Barber said the credit for students showing up for school is not with him and his staff, but with principals and teachers in each of Waynesboro’s six schools.
The board also approved implementation of “Structural Technology & Design,” a 9-week technology course at Kate Collins Middle School, which, according to Waynesboro Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff Cassell, would inform and feed students into Waynesboro High School’s Career and Technology Education program and further prepare students for a career after high school graduation.
The course will give Kate Collins students an introduction to architecture and engineering.
The middle school course, Waynesboro Schools Executive Director of Instruction Tim Teachey said, is an elective for 8th grade students.
“It’s still a high school credit opportunity for these kids,” said Teachey.