Every year, students come to school late, leave early, or miss certain days entirely. Undoubtedly, tardies and absences are normal for any student, but with this year’s new bell schedule, it’s worth looking at some of the emerging trends. Has tardiness increased? How have seventh period classes affected absences for sports? Even more notably, what hasn’t changed at all?
Attendance Clerk Adriana Gonzalez said, “At the beginning of the year, tardies were a pretty big problem. However, since then, they’ve become comparable to previous years.” She explained, “Many students were still getting used to the earlier start time, and traffic was a pretty big problem.” In previous years, because of the zero period, not all cars arrived at M-A at the same time: some students needed to be in class at 8:00 a.m. and others at 8:55 a.m. Now, because the majority of students start at 8:30, almost all parents and staff drive to school at the same time, causing significant backups and delays. In addition, many seniors, juniors, and even sophomores can drive themselves, causing even more traffic. Other tardies have been related to senioritis, with Senior Matthew Kawkab stating, “Senioritis has hit me hard, and I’m often late to class because of it.”
Students also leave early and miss school for various reasons. Gonzalez stated that these reasons mainly consist of appointments and sickness. Additionally, she’s noticed that many students are absent because of college visits and sports games. However, she mentioned that, to the credit of the new bell schedule, “Sports absences have seemingly gone down because most students are getting out earlier and games are starting later.”
One crucial aspect of attendance is that excused absences don’t need to be verified. If a parent or guardian calls or emails the attendance office stating that their child needs to be excused, M-A can’t determine whether the excuse is “valid” or not, but simply must follow the request. Of course, most students and parents are likely honest, but, undoubtedly, people do abuse the system. Gonzalez said, “It’s hard for me to tell if the parent is being honest or not when they call in for a student, but I have noticed students whose excused absences are mostly during tests or quizzes. However, I can’t do anything about it.” Senior Kiran Duriseti agreed, stating, “I’ve noticed several students that are usually absent during tests in my Physics class.” Given that an absence can be excused up to three days after it happens, this can be unfair to students that are taking tests on time.
Deliberately missing class becomes even more of an issue when students turn 18. Because the student is a legal adult, they don’t need a note from a parent or guardian to excuse their absences or tardies. Theoretically, this could allow a student to use practically any excuse to miss class. Regardless, Gonzalez noted that there aren’t that many 18-year-olds at M-A, and thus there isn’t a large cause for concern.
To prevent egregious class-skipping, M-A has implemented a few different measures. Although students who are 18 can call in for themselves, they can’t do so for an entire school day. Gonzalez said, “If students that are 18 try to call in sick for an entire day, we usually ask that a parent confirm that.” Moreover, for any excuse to be valid, Gonzalez stated that it must come from the parent or guardian. She said, “In the past, I’ve had to turn down siblings or other family members that call or email the attendance office because they simply aren’t the emergency contact.” She added, “The gate in the student parking lot is locked during lunch, and a student can only get through it if they have a pass.” Critically, that pass must be called or emailed in by the emergency contact at least two hours prior to the time the student needs to be excused. Gonzalez said, “This not only gives us enough time to deliver the pass with student TAs, but it also prevents a student from frantically rushing to get an excuse to miss a period in the middle of the day.”
Finally, a student can automatically fail a class if they have “18 or more absences with three or more cuts [unexcused absences] in that class.” Although Gonzalez noted that this is extremely rare, students have failed classes because of excessive absences. She stated, “Usually, if a student exceeds the 18 absences, the teacher will receive a form at the end of the semester. With this, the teacher can choose to assign the student the grade that they earned, or can automatically fail them.” Despite this, an anonymous underclassman said, “I’ve seen students absent far more than 18 times in a semester, and I’ve never once heard about them failing.”
Overall, many trends in attendance at M-A have remained constant this year. In future years, however, Gonzalez wishes that there was more that M-A could legally do to keep students in class, rather than allowing them to be excused without properly being checked.