Under a new policy approved by the Tupelo school board on Tuesday, parents will be able to ask that their children be excused for a maximum of three days per semester. Previously, it had been five days per semester.
“The board’s intent is to encourage students to attend all the time,” said Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell.
With the new block schedule at the high school, students will have fewer, longer classes each semester and a good attendance record will be especially crucial to academic success.
“If you miss one class, you are missing 94 minutes of instruction instead of 47 minutes,” said Tupelo High School Assistant Principal Nikki Peel.
Medical excused absences will continue to cover illness and injury that prevent a child from attending school, medical and dental appointments and serious illness or death of an immediate family member.
Students who miss 30 minutes or more of a class or school day will require a parent or medical excuse.
The policy doesn’t set a specific number of absences that triggers a failing grade.
“Excessive absences can affect mastery of content,” Ezell said. “If you don’t master core curriculum, you’re not going to pass.”
Parents will need to send written excuses via email, note or fax to the school office or attendance center. The excuse will need to include the child’s full name, grade, dates of absences and need to be submitted within 10 days. Previously, the district had accepted phone calls.
“We need it in writing to meet accountability standards,” Ezell said.
Parents can ask for exceptions through attendance reviews request forms submitted to the school principal, or the high school attendance committee. The process can be used to address issues such as out-of-state college visits for high school junior and seniors that require more than two days to complete.