Attendance (Q&A)

What is an excused absence?


The Pennsylvania Compulsory Attendance Law requires a child of compulsory school age to be in attendance at school, unless absent for an approved reason, and charges the parent of the child with the responsibility for such attendance.  Compulsory school age refers to the period of a child's life from the time the child enters school as a beginner, which shall be no later than at the age of eight years, until the age of seventeen, or until graduation from a regularly accredited Senior High School, whichever occurs first.

What reasons can a child be legally absent from school?


The following reasons as found in Title 22, Pennsylvania Code, Chapter 11, Pupil Attendance of the Regulations of the State Board of Education of Pennsylvania, are the only reasons for an approved absence from school:

1.    Religious Holidays

a.  A pupil may be excused from school for observance of bona fide religious holidays by particular religious groups in accordance with policies of the District's Board of School Directors.

b.  A pupil's absence from school for bona fide religious holidays should be recorded as an excused absence.  There shall be no penalty attached to such an absence.

2.    Health Care

A pupil may be excused during school hours for the purpose of obtaining non-school professional health care under the following circumstances:

a.  the health services are rendered by State licensed practitioners,
    
b.  there has been established reasonable cooperation between the school authorities and the practitioners in providing services to schoolchildren outside school hours,

c.  the time of necessary absence from school involved a minimum of interference with schoolwork.

3.    Illness or Other Urgent Reasons

Every principal or teacher may, upon receipt of satisfactory evidence of mental, physical, or other urgent reasons, excuse a child for non-attendance during a temporary period, but the term "urgent reasons" shall be strictly construed and shall not permit irregular attendance.

4.    Educational Tours and Trips, Not School Sponsored

Upon receipt of a written request from the parents of the pupils involved, pupils may be excused from school attendance to participate in an educational tour or trip provided during the school term at the expense of the parents when such tour or trip is so determined by the District Superintendent or designee to serve an educational purpose and pupil participants therein are subject to direction and supervision by an adult acceptable to the District Superintendent and to the parents of the pupils concerned, subject to the following conditions:

a.    Educational tours or trips will be considered for approval if the District Superintendent determines that such tour or trip will be of educational significance to the student.  In order for the District Superintendent or designee to make such a determination, the parent shall provide a written request for excusal on a form provided by the School District, which shall indicate the days to be missed, the destination of the tour or trip, and the reason why the tour or trip could not be taken on days when school is not in session.

b.    Unless some emergency arises, such requests shall be made at least two weeks prior to the date of the tour or trip.

c.    Unless some unusual family circumstances exist, such tours or trips shall not be approved during the final two weeks of the school term.

d.    If more than one child in a family will be taking the tour or trip, the request for all the children shall be included in the request made to the principal of the oldest child, with the name and school of each involved child noted in the request so that their absences may be cleared with the appropriate principals.            

e.    All schoolwork missed during the approved tour or trip shall be made up on the initiative of the student and at the reasonable convenience of the teacher.

f.    It is not the intent of this policy to grant excused absences for tours or trips to local points of interest, attendance at sports events, hunting or fishing trips, shopping trips, limited family functions, or solely to accompany the family on vacation.    

Are there any other reasons to be absent from school?


You can be absent from school for tutorial work, graduation preparations, work-study programs, homebound instruction, tutoring (Home Schooling) and attendance at non-public or public schools, to the extent provided in the Regulations.  

Upon receipt of written request from the parent/guardian, a high school student can be absent for a (1) one-day college visitation tour. Parents requesting (2) two or more days for students for college visitation tours must follow the educational tours and trips policy. 

What will be done about irregular attendance?


In Pennsylvania, the only grounds for legal absence include the items listed above, illness, death in the immediate family, quarantine, impassable roads, or some definite emergency.  Attendance at court hearings is also permitted.  All other excuses are unexcused or illegal.  Three (3) days of illegal absence will cause an official notice to be sent to the parents.  Continued absence beyond these three (3) days will subject the involved parents to a fine.

Do you have to call the school when your child is going to be absent?

        
Pupils are requested to have parents call the school on the morning of absence.  Parents must call each day the child is absent.  This call helps to ensure each child’s safety.  This procedure will also save the time of calling the home to determine the reason for the absence.  

Do you need a written excuse when your child returns?


When elementary and middle school pupils return to school after an absence, they shall carry to the homeroom teacher a written excuse explaining the absence and signed by parents. When high school pupils return to school after an absence, they shall carry to the office a written excuse explaining the absence and signed by parents. All absences should be treated as unlawful until the school district (school) receives a written excuse explaining the reason(s) for an absence.  Parents/guardians and students should submit the written explanation within three calendar days of the absence and should be informed that if they fail to provide a written excuse within thee days of the absence, the absence would be permanently counted as unlawful.  The PDE (Pennsylvania Department of Education) recommends that schools immediately inform parents in writing upon each incident of unlawful absence.

This means that you are required to send a written excuse to school when your child returns to school after an absence.  If the school does not receive a written excuse within three days of the absence, it remains an unlawful (unexcused) absence.

Written notification will be sent home upon each incident of unlawful (unexcused) absence.

How many lawful absences during the school year are permitted?


A maximum of ten days of cumulative lawful absences verified by parental notification may be permitted during a school year.  

Cumulative days are defined as the total number.  They may be consecutive or accumulated throughout the school year.

When do you need a Doctor’s excuse?


After five (5) days of continuous absence, or after the tenth day of cumulative absence, the school requires the parent(s) to verify the student's illness by a written statement from a physician.  Additionally, the district requires a written statement from a physician for each absence after 10 cumulative days.  Parents must send the doctor's excuse within three (3) days of the student returning to school.

What happens to a student’s grades if there are unexcused absences?


For each day of absence from class on the secondary level, judged as unexcused by the School Administration in accordance with the compulsory school attendance laws, the student shall receive a failing 
(F) Grade for the daily work in that class.

Only the principal or his designee may excuse a student from attending a class.  Upon the fourth unexcused class absence, the student shall receive a failing (F) grade for the current nine-week grade period, except that the student will have the option of attending a supervised one-half day (8:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon) make-up session held on Saturday for the purpose of completing an educational project assigned by his regular subject teacher(s).  Attendance at this make-up session is for the sole purpose of removing the automatic "F" grade for the nine-week period, caused by three unexcused class absences, and in no way eliminated the daily F grade for the unexcused absence.  The regular subject teacher shall assign a grade to the work done at the Saturday session and include such grade in the nine-week evaluation.  A student may use the make-up session only once in a nine-week period.
            
Students who have not been granted an excused absence will not be permitted to make up any written work or to take any tests or examinations missed during such absences.
        
In the Senior High School, the final exam is considered to be 1/5 of the final grade.  In cases where final exams are missed, unless the principal has granted an excused absence and the right to take a make-up exam, the final grade will be diminished accordingly.

While the final exam in the Middle School does not carry the same weight as in the Senior High School, the same general procedure will be followed.
In all cases, final grades and report cards will be issued even though written examinations may have been missed.

If the unexcused absences from school total more than ten for a semester or twenty for a full year on the last day of the semester or year, the student shall not be granted credit toward graduation promotion for any of the semester courses or yearly courses or grade levels in which he is enrolled.

Subject to the provisions of the preceding paragraph, a student who has fifteen or more days of absence, whether excused or unexcused, in a single semester shall be ineligible for credit in any single-semester course being taken at the time.  In the case of a senior planning to graduate at the end of the first semester such absence shall be sufficient reason to deny graduation.  A student who has thirty or more days of absence, whether excused or unexcused, in a school year shall be ineligible for credit in any two-semester course being taken at the time.  In addition, such absence shall make the student ineligible for promotion or graduation.  Absence shall be interpreted to mean non-attendance in school, in an individual class, or a combination of both.  A student may individually request a waiver of this provision by so informing the building principal.  The case shall then be reviewed by a Promotion Committee, whose sole function shall be to determine whether or not the student's excessive absences were legitimately attributable to the reasons enumerated in Part A of the Attendance Policy.  If the Committee so determines, the provisions of this paragraph may be waived for that student.
    The Promotion Committee shall consist of:

        a.    Assistant Superintendent - Chairman
        b.    Appropriate Coordinator
        c.    Appropriate Principal

What does a student do when they are tardy?


Students must report directly to the office upon their arrival to school after the tardy bell has rung.  They will be issued a permit to report to the class currently in session.  Failure to report to the office after entering the building will result in an unexcused absence being recorded for the entire day.  A child who arrives after the scheduled beginning time of the school day is required to present a note of explanation from his or her parent or guardian.  

Each group of three class illegal tardies shall be considered as one unexcused class absence.  Each group of three illegal tardies to school shall be considered as one unexcused absence from school for the purposes of State accounting.

    

What about excuses from Physical Education Class?


No student will be excused from gym class unless a written excuse has been presented to and approved by the school nurse.  Exceptions may be 
made, of course, in cases of emergency. If a student needs, for any reason, to be excused for more than two  (2) gym classes, for the same reason, that student must present a written
excuse from a physician, to the school nurse.  Students who are to be excused from gym for the entire year must present a new physician's written approval each year.

On occasion, a student needs to be excused from gym class, and yet a trip to the doctor is not warranted.  In such a case, a written excuse signed by the parent or guardian is sufficient.  However, as stated above, should the student need to miss more than two (2) gym classes, a physician's note is required.

Students are to bring all necessary clothes and equipment to school on the day of gym class, even if an excuse has been approved by the school nurse.

What are the practices at the High School that would support district policy?


Practices following district policy at the High School, as previously stated, are set up to be proactive, not punitive.  Our strategies are to work with students and parents to prevent truancy while following District policies and PA laws.  Attendance issues are very serious and can result in fines of $300, court costs and 90 day driver license suspensions for students as well as having academic consequences.  

When a student is absent, parents call the High School Office and report that their child will not be in school.  This information is given to the attendance teacher who is responsible for managing attendance for students.  He/she records this information into the District data system.  Letters are generated daily that indicate unexcused/unlawful absences.  These letters initiate communication that confirms or corrects the information.  The High School has also developed a verification form, which students may use to verify their presence in classes when needed.  This enables the student to become involved in the process and emphasizes a shared responsibility.  The attendance teacher follows through with them or takes over this verification if needed.    

Each day the attendance teacher runs a 10 cumulative day report.  
If appropriate, he/she can implement a truancy reduction plan along with any letters indicating that a citation will be issued as well as requesting appropriate physician excuses for those students.  Having a teacher in the position of attendance enables him/her to know each student in the High School who has risks and work with the principals to reduce attendance issues and keep students on a track to achieve academic success.  

 

What are the practices at Dorseyville Middle School that would support district policy?


Practices following district policy, as previously stated, at DMS, are set up to be proactive, not punitive.  Strategies include working with students and parents to prevent truancy while following District policies and PA laws.  Attendance issues are very serious and can result in fines of $300 and court costs for students as well as having academic consequences.  

Dorseyville Middle School follows the requirements in the District’s Attendance Policy as listed in previous pages.  Parents or guardians are contacted by their child’s counselor when the child accrues more than ten absences to remind families of the need for physicians’ excuses and plan with them to limit future absences.  If a student exceeds three unexcused absences, the counselor and principal work with the family to develop a Truancy Intervention Plan (TIP) to prevent additional unexcused absences and the need for referral to the magistrate.  The administration at DMS works with the District Magistrate to reduce attendance issues, provide needed support to families, and keep students on track to achieve academic success.

What are the practices at the Elementary Schools that would support district policy?     


Practices following district policy, as previously stated, at the Elementary Schools, are set up to be proactive, not punitive.  Our strategies are to work with students and parents to prevent truancy while following District policies and PA laws.  Attendance issues are very serious and can result in fines of $300 and court costs for students as well as having academic consequences.  

Parents/guardians are asked to call into the building office to notify the school that their child will be absent.  If a child is absent from school and a parent/guardian has not called the school, the school’s office contacts the parent/guardian during the morning to ensure the safety of the student. 

The Guidance Department, along with the principal, works with families and students at risk to reduce attendance issues and keep students on track to achieve academic success.  The District Magistrate also works with the elementary schools as far as giving out fines for citations.  For students who are not in danger with attendance issues, but warrant fines, the fines can be held and the case kept open for reports of continued absences, in which case the fines can be issued and further action taken.