State Department of Education guidelines for how many days a student may be absent have changed for the 2010-2011 school year and parents should review how those changes will affect excused and unexcused absences.
The Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) revised several attendance policies. While previously students were allowed 20 absences each school year, beginning in August, High School students will be allowed five absences per semester, and Elementary through Junior High students will be allowed ten absences each school year.
A letter explaining the changes was sent to St. Tammany Parish parents and caregivers last spring. It is important that parents understand the new rules governing absences up front, particularly as they make travel plans for next year so that they use school holidays rather than taking students out of school.
The new rules state that absences of two or fewer consecutive school days attributed to personal illness or serious illness in the family may be validated by a parent or caregiver by a written excuse note. The excuse note will allow a student to make up any missed work, but the absence will still count against the cumulative absences allowed under the new policy. If a student is absent for three or more consecutive days, a student must present a note from a physician, nurse practitioner, or dentist to be excused. This type of absence will not count against the cumulative absence days.
The new guidelines will not allow students to be excused for vacations or other family trips. As a result, parents should schedule vacations and necessary appointments during school breaks. The 2010-2011 School calendar includes ample breaks for travel plans.
Extenuating circumstances will be considered but must be approved by the Supervisor of Child Welfare and Attendance. The circumstances must be verified by a physician, nurse practitioner, or dentist in order to be considered as an official excuse from the attendance regulation. State law also allows exceptions based on the observance of special and recognized holidays of a student’s faith.
The only other exception to the law will be absences that are verified by the principal for the purposes of school system approved travel for education, a death in the family, or a natural catastrophe or disaster. Students who are participating in school-approved field trips and other instructional activities such as College Spring Testing and approved college visits will be considered present at school.