If Palisades residents thought they saw a large number of high school kids walking around the Village last year during the school day or hanging out in the park at the Palisades Recreation Center, they were right.
The attendance policy had been suspended at Palisades Charter High School because of the pandemic.
PaliHi Executive Director/Principal Pam Magee said at the Board of Trustees meeting on August 23, “Attendance was a huge problem last year for teachers and students.”
Financial officer Juan Pablo Herrera said, “We lost $1 million last year because of attendance – low attendance rates.”
For the teachers, low attendance made instruction difficult and trying to help students with make-up assignments, meant “I was up to midnight every night trying to grade old assignments.”
One teacher in urging for passage of the policy said, “Twenty-five percent of seniors last year were chronically absent.”
Another teacher said, “I taught seniors last year and it was common to have at least a third gone.”
In addition to a correlation between good school attendance and student achievement, starting in 1998, school districts receive State funding only for students who actually ATTEND school. The state excluded excused absences from ADA for funding purposes.
PaliHi receives $64.85 per day per student. For students who English learners, foster youth or low income, the school receives $77.82 a day (but that’s less than 30 percent of PaliHi’s population).
Prior to Covid, enrollment was at 3,030 and with a 96 percent attendance rate, the ADA was based on 2,907 students.
In 2021-2022, enrollment was at 2,960 and the ADA was 2,779 (93.8 attendance rate).
The projected enrollment for 2022-23 is 3,000 and the ADA is projected for 2,820 (94 percent attendance rate).
Although teachers understood the financial implications, they were more worried about the message that lack of accountability was sending. “Students need boundaries – some are going to college and others will work next year,” a teacher said.
Another added, “It was egregious last year. Students were gone on vacations. We need to put something in place. We need to hold people accountable. Teachers don’t want another free-for-all semester.”
The proposed policy would require a student who is absent to provide a verification note within three days of an absence to the school. If no note is provided, the student will be considered truant.
A student will face further consequences if he/she has is absent three full times in a year with no note or is tardy for more than 30 minutes without a valid excuse. The student on the board thought that seemed harsh, but then was quoted the California Truancy law [Ed Code 48260 (a)] which states “that students are deemed truant following three unexcused absences and/or tardies for more than any 30-minute period during the school day.”
PaliHi students with three or more unexcused absences from any one course during a grading period could be subjected to ineligibility in extracurricular activities, such as prom and graduation.
The student representative, said the policy was too strict, that students should be allowed more than three days to get a note in and asked for seven days and no tardy sweeps.
He said the tardy sweeps were unfair because if someone were a little late, they would just go up to the village skipping the first class. That way they wouldn’t have to spend their lunch hour in detention, which is the standard punishment for being tardy (three tardies = one absence).
A parent on the board agreed that tardy sweeps should not be implemented because before the change of school time (from 7:50 to 8:30 a.m.), “it used to take 25 minutes to drive here. But now with the later start time, it takes 45 minutes,” she said. “Coming into school is a nightmare.”
Another board member commiserated with the parent, but pointed out that traffic is bad in Los Angeles and whenever she has to go someplace, she leaves early.
It was decided that students would have five days to provide a note for an absence. Tardy sweeps would return, and the policy would be reviewed by the Board after 60 days.
The State of California Education Code requires that every person between the ages of 6 and 18 attend school full-time, unless exempted. Therefore, schools are required to have written documentation for student absences and to record such absences as excused or unexcused.
The approved policy can be viewed on the Palisades High School website. https://www.palihigh.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=411331&type=d&termREC_ID=&pREC_ID=962798