The St. Charles Parish school system is giving high school students a break from the strict attendance policies put in place statewide last August with a new attendance recovery program.
The state policy requires high school students to miss less than five days per course. If they miss more days, they will not receive credit for that course.
But the parish is allowing students who have missed between six and 10 days to participate in a new attendance recovery program that allows them to spend time after school making up the hours they miss in each course.
“It’s an awesome program where the students are allowed to go after school…and pay back the hours they missed from that class and once they’ve successfully done that, then that student maintains the credit for that course,” said Jerry Smith, director of child welfare and attendance for the district. “If they pay the time back, it’s as though they were not absent.”
A student would not qualify for the program if they miss more than 11 days or if they are failing the course.
For the fall semester at Hahnville High School, 60 percent of the students who qualified for the program participated in it, and 56 percent recovered their credits. At Destrehan High, 52 percent of qualified students participated and 59 percent of credits were recovered.
Students who participate in the program don’t receive credit if they fail to turn in their assignments or show up late for the after-school class.
Funding for the recovery program comes from district money, according to Smith.
“Our school district is funding it and that’s one of the issues for why it’s not offered to kindergarten through 8th grade,” Smith said. She said that high school credits carry more weight because they could be the difference between a student graduating or dropping out. She also noted that kids in elementary and middle schools are afforded more absence days than high school students.
While the state does not fund or force implementation of attendance recovery, they allow districts to do so at their own discretion, Smith said.
While this program will make sure that those students get a second chance to earn their credits, school officials say the new statewide policies were meant to raise attendance and they are working.
Average daily attendance in the district for the fall semester was up two percent, to 97 percent, from 95 percent in 2009-2010.
“People are nervous about not sending their kids to school,” said Rochelle Cancienne-Touchard, director of public information for the district. “I think people are really cognizant of the fact that they need to get their kids to school…I think the kids realize it too.”