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District reviews absence policy

The Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan School District is taking a look at the way it handles absences, detention and suspension with an eye toward keeping kids in class as much as possible.

Secondary education director Mark Parr said the district is 90 percent done with a new policy on attendance, and is currently reviewing its approaches to detention and suspension. But the underlying message at a Monday night school board meeting was clear: keeping kids in class is important to their academic success.

The district’s current attendance policy at the secondary level gives students a failing grade in a class if they miss that class 10 times. Students can appeal the decision.

But Parr said that policy might be too inflexible. As the district started looking at who misses classes and the reason they’re absent, they found little in the way of patterns. But under the current policy all absences are treated the same.

Board member Gary Huusko said Monday that his daughter had nine absences on her record in a recent year and needed to miss class one more time to attend an interview for a college scholarship. Huusko asked ahead of time if she could get the absence excused, but administrators refused. His daughter appealed her failing grade successfully, but Huusko worried others might not bother going through the process.

“There’s so many reasons kids don’t come to school, and they were dealt with the same,” superintendent Jane Berenz said. 

Parr said the new policy will likely include a kind of triage where administrators can step in when students start approaching the 10-absence limit and look for solutions to keep them in school.

Suspension policies could see similar changes, with administrators looking for ways to punish misbehavior without keeping students out of school. At Eastview High School, administrators have started putting some students on a landscaping crew rather than sending them home. Apple Valley High School has students who have been suspended for more than one day come back early to catch up on work.

“Kicking them out of school all the time just puts them in a spiral,” board chair Rob Duchscher said.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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