Missouri school districts asked to part ways with perfect attendance

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JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Schools across the state of Missouri are currently working on what the school year will look like when students and teachers return to the classroom. Besides possible face masks and social distancing, districts are discussing doing away with perfect attendance.

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, DESE, is leaving lots of room for local school districts to decide what returning to school might look like come August.

Fox 2’s Missouri Capitol Bureau Chief Emily Manley spoke with DESE about the recommendation to part ways with attendance awards and incentives.

“We are really encouraging families, students, and school staff members to stay home this fall when they are not feeling well,” said Mallory McGowin, DESE Communications Director. “We are ultimately trying to make sure our schools can remain open for in-person, in-seat learning amid COVID-19.”

After months away from the classroom, time is ticking until teachers and students return to school.

“I don’t think many of us would be honest if we said we could imagine having the conversations we are now a few months ago,” said McGowin.

DESE is asking local school districts to make smart and healthy decisions for when school is back in session.

“We need to make sure we are communicating about good hygiene, good hand washing and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze,” said McGowin. “We are also asking local school districts to think about their school day and ensure that we have smaller groups of children and how the staff is interacting with students.”

Besides possibly implementing face masks and social distant activities, McGowin said they are asking schools to do away with perfect attendance awards and incentives.

“That may encourage students to be at school when they don’t feel good and should be at home resting or should be home not knowing what those symptoms they are experiencing might be leading too,” McGowin said.

Not only does the student feel achieved when awarded with perfect attendance, but the school district is also rewarded too.

“Student attendance is part of the calculation that determines the amount of state aid and state funding a school district receives,” McGowin said.

She said the state statute does have a backup plan that allows districts to use the previous year’s attendance.

“If could mean that some schools are receiving different amounts but that language is set for unforeseen situations like this,” said McGowin.

McGowin said some school districts are offering surveys for teachers and families to ask their opinion about returning to the classroom in the fall and to ask what safety measures should be in place. Jefferson City School District is one of those districts that offered the survey. Communication Director for the district, Ryan Burns said the district plans to release more details for the school year later this week. Burns said JC Schools is considering DESE’s recommendation of doing away with perfect attendance.

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