Chronic absences a growing concern in Park City schools

Park City School District has created a committee to look at the growing concern of chronic absences. Chronic absenteeism is defined as a measure of how many students miss a defined number of school days (often around 15 or more days) for any reason.

The committee, which will meet monthly until May, consists of Superintendent Ember Conley, district administrators, principals, counselors, teachers, parents, Latino outreach specialists, and community partners.

During its first meeting last week, the committee was presented data by Caitlin O’Connor, the district’s statistician. About 2 percent of the district’s students have severe chronic absences (miss 20 percent or more of school days). Some 10 percent of students have moderate chronic absences (miss 10-19 percent of school days).

In 2017, the students who missed the most school included minorities, ELL students, and economically disadvantaged students.

The leadership at Park City Learning Academy is extremely happy to see a committee studying this issue. “We strive to help students get on a meaningful path toward college and/or career and have the opportunity to mentor individuals, provide project-based learning and meet students at their level with personalized learning,” said Principal Tracy Sjostrom who is a member of the committee. “Students need strong cognitive skills to thrive in today’s world. If they are not at school, we can’t guide them to reach their full potential. I am grateful for various stakeholders coming together to put an evidence based attendance plan in place. With 30-50 percent of PCLA students missing one or more periods a day, it is dire that we do what it takes to decrease chronic absenteeism.”

 At the national level, more than 7 million students are missing so many days of school that they are academically at risk. Chronic absences can translate into third-graders unable to master reading, sixth-graders failing subjects and ninth-graders dropping out of high school.

The PCSD committee’s goal is to reduce the number of unexcused absences by at least 50 percent. It will also ensure consistency between all schools by upholding Utah Administrative Code and following the PCSD Attendance Policy. 

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