The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Don’t skip this one: WCHS updates the attendance policies

Photo by Sneha David
WCHS senior Kira Bernstein checks into the main office per the new attendance rules. Now, attendance is handled in the main office instead of the previous attendance office.

At any MCPS classroom at this moment, there would be empty seats. However, these seats have increased in the past two years, causing alarm among the MCPS community.

As schools across the county have seen spikes in absenteeism, MCPS has expressed a concern about “chronically absent students,” defined as students who miss 18 unexcused school days. 27% of MCPS students were considered chronically absent last year.

“I think both WCHS and MCPS have seen a rise in truant behavior,” WCHS Principal John Taylor said. “MCPS is really trying to address that because we know if students aren’t in school, they aren’t learning as much as they could [be].”

The WCHS administration is concerned that so many students are not in the classroom. Students face many disadvantages when not coming to school, such as not being set up for success.

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“Attendance in class is essential in students’ academic success,” WCHS Assistant School Administrator Dr. Mbachu said. “They have to be there so that they can engage with the content that is being talked to them. Also, interacting with other peers their age increases their maturity and social and emotional growth, and helps to prepare them to enter the adult world.”

Because most assignments are available in Canvas, many students believe it is okay if they miss classroom instruction. However, being present in the classroom is vital for students to learn the material.

“There is a real benefit to being in the classroom with a teacher, going over things. Kids can make up work and get points virtually, but if they aren’t in the classroom, they aren’t able to ask questions and be part of discussions in the classroom,” Taylor said. “Those are things that make the learning experience special in the classroom. You can’t make that up, even if you can make up the assignments.”

In August 2023, MCPS launched a plan to combat absenteeism by hosting regular attendance data review meetings. WCHS also plans to fix this issue by communicating with families to inform them of absences.

“We have been trying to refocus the last two years on attendance,” Taylor said. “Students that find themselves struggling with attendance, we are reaching out much quicker and frequently with their parents. We understand that sometimes there is nothing a kid can do.”

Other than purposely skipping class, many spikes in absences are also due to anticipated absences or ones that cannot be controlled. WCHS is trying to communicate with these students to assist them.

“There are a lot of factors that may affect why a student does not attend school,” Mbachu said. “We are working as a school to partner with families to help support those students.”

School work tends to pile up when students return after a long missed time. This can cause students to miss even more school as they attempt to avoid the stress of countless assignments. Teachers and administrators are creating a new plan to help support students when they return.

“Sometimes kids get stressed when they are out for multiple days, and teachers are immediately giving them a lot of work, and that is stressful,” Taylor said. “It creates a snowball effect and can cause students to not want to come back, or if they do come back, they go out because they are overwhelmed. We are trying to make a plan to ease students back in and make sure they are comfortable.”

WCHS teachers are also holding students more accountable for absences. Administrators have encouraged teachers to ensure that their attendance reflects those in the classroom and avoid making mistakes when marking students absent and tardy.

“We have makeup plans and attendance interventions in order to help students be successful,” Taylor said. “We have talked a lot with our teachers to make sure that they are marking attendance accurately. We have a real focus on making sure we aren’t accidentally marking students wrong.”

While many new policies exist, WCHS continues implementing strategies and plans to combat this problem. From increased communication with parents to new sign-in protocols, only time will tell whether WCHS will see a change in attendance.

“We are sending letters home, going over the attendance with parents,” Taylor said. “We are really trying to close the communication gap. A lot of times, parents don’t realize how much school their kids are missing. We want to work with parents and let them know how important it is that students come to school. There are going to be changes in the grading policy that the county is also working on to help encourage students. The last thing we want to do is have a student whose attendance is really impacting their grade, and it is affecting their future.”

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About the Contributor
Sneha David, Online Content Editor
Sneha David is a senior and the Online Content Manager of the Observer. In her free time she likes to hang out with her friends, watch Netflix and walk her dog. Her favorite singers are Taylor Swift and Harry Styles. This is her third year taking journalism.

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