Administration to update attendance policy

Gavin Libbey and Tim Melvin

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The Palo Alto High School administration is revising the current attendance policy to discourage unexcused absences and tardiness among students, according to the principal.

Principal Kim Diorio is working to revise attendance policy as well as to help students and teachers achieve better attendance records.

“This is something that has been a work in progress since last year,” Diorio said.

According to Diorio, she began working with the administration and former principal Phil Winston on the attendance policy late last school year in response to dropping attendance rates over the past three years.

The focus of the new system is to target students who frequently cut class. According to Diorio, data shows that cutting class was lower when Saturday School was active and the administration is trying to come up with new consequences that are more responsive and effective for students. The administration is also looking to discourage tardiness, but less so than to discourage cutting class.

“Tardiness is not as chronic an issue as cutters,” Diorio said.

Instead of changes to the handbook, teachers have been asked to make small changes to their daily routines, like taking attendance every day early in the class period and keeping students inside for the full five minute INfocus announcement sessions. Teachers neglecting to take attendance disrupts data collected in the Western Association of Schools and Colleges process, Diorio said, adding that having teachers take attendance lets the students know that teachers care about them.

If the revision to the current policy includes a large change like the re-installation of Saturday School, the administration will have to submit the plan to the Board of Education for approval. If it passes, then it might face Paly’s Associated Student Body and Parent Teacher Student Association.

Diorio said the revisions might be done and implemented as soon as next semester.

“That would be my ultimate goal,” she said.