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Schools encourage attendance before summer

COVINGTON - This time of year, many students are often thinking of playing outside in the sunshine and dreaming about summer vacation. With those thoughts in their heads, teachers at many of Newton County's public schools are encouraging students - and their parents - to be present and on time at school for the remaining few weeks.

"Students lose valuable instructional time when they are absent from school," said RaNae Sims, director of student services for Newton County Schools. "This time of year is extremely important, as students are learning and reviewing information for their spring tests."

She doesn't know if this time of year has more absences than other times of year, but she said sickness and vacations can contribute to missing school this time of year.

The school system will not give credit to high school students who have more than five unexcused absences per class per semester, according to the school system handbook. Also, the school system may refer parents or guardians of students with more than five unexcused absences to the courts, where they may be fined or face arrest, community service or other penalties.

Cumulative attendance reports aren't yet available for this school year, but during the 2006-07 school year, 54.2 percent of all students had five or fewer days absent, 35.9 percent had six to 15 days absent and 9.8 percent had more than 15 days absent. During the 2005-06 school year, 50.9 percent of students missed five or fewer, 37.5 percent had six to 15 an 11.6 had more than 15 days, while in 2004-05, 49.7 percent of students were reported with five or fewer absences, 39 percent had six to 15 days and 11.4 percent had more than 15 days absent.

According to the handbook, students are temporarily excused from school when they could endanger the health of others, when mandated by governmental agencies, when registering to vote or voting, when involved in a school-sponsored or approved trip and when serving Project Decision or in the Hospital Homebound program, among other reasons.

Students with an unexcused absence will receive a zero on any graded class assignment and not be allowed to make up tests, according to the handbook.

Sims said several schools offer attendance incentives all year long and during testing periods.

"Examples of these incentives include having a pizza party for a class that has perfect attendance for 10 school days, having a pizza party or ice cream party for classes who have perfect attendance during testing week," she said. "High school seniors are allowed to exempt final exams if they have an 80 average and have no more than five absences. A huge incentive for students of driving age is the fact that they cannot get their driver's permit or may have their driver's license revoked for 10 or more cumulative unexcused absences during a school year."

She said teachers also may verbally praise or give small rewards to students with exceptional attendance records.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: At a glance

Attendance Report for Newton County School System

School Year/5 or fewer days absent/6-15 days/More than 15 days

2007-08/N/A/N/A/N/A

2006-07/54.2/35.9/9.8

2005-06/50.9/37.5/11.6

2004-05/49.7/39.0/11.4

Source: Georgia Department of Education