By LYNETTE HAALAND, Four Points News
Student absences in the days surrounding Winter Break cost the Leander ISD $196,844. Absences in the Four Points schools alone made up $56,257 of the district’s total.
Winter Break ran Monday, Feb. 3 through Wednesday, Feb. 5. During that time, LISD teachers have a professional development conference, while students are off. Some LISD families refer to this break as “ski week,” and for others, it is a popular time to take big trips.
Like in years past, the trend continued this year with a high number of student absences surrounding Winter Break.
“The high absences are a concern to all of the board members. We have spoke about it in open session several times,” said Pam Waggoner, LISD board president.
“We want our families to enjoy their time-off, but we want our parents to set an example for their children that school is important and vacation can wait,” Waggoner said.
Thursday night at the school board meeting, the 2014-2015 calendar was changed from a three-day Winter Break to a two-day Winter Break. Next year, the LISD staff development time will be condensed to two staff development days and students will be off two days.
“We’ve looked at the calendar and made adjustments based on community feedback to maximize student instruction time,” said LISD spokesperson Veronica Sopher.
“We have eliminated one day from February conference in hopes that those who take the week off in February will think twice about missing three consecutive days of school,” Waggoner said.
“If parents don’t prioritize education, we cannot expect our students to,” Waggoner added.
Absences around 2014 Winter Break
Leander ISD students 35,281
Absences: Average 1,286 Friday Jan. 31 1,729 Thursday, Feb. 6 3,509
Four Points area students 7,453
Absences: Average 239 Friday Jan. 31 504 Thursday, Feb. 6 993
All data reported as of March 24, 2014 by Leander ISD.
Four Points absences add up
This school year, the average number of absences on a given day is 239 out of the 7,453 students who attend Steiner Ranch, Laura W. Bush, River Ridge, River Place and Grandview Hills elementary schools, Canyon Ridge and Four Points middle schools and Vandegrift High School.
Unexcused absences surrounding Winter Break are significantly higher.
Twice as many Four Points area LISD students, or 504, were absent than average on the Friday before Winter Break, more than four times as many, or 993, were absent on the Thursday following Winter Break. School was cancelled this year on the Friday following Winter Break due to bad weather.
Absences on the Thursday following Winter Break were 10 percent higher this year compared to an average school day — which usually has 3 percent absences.
Attendance plays a significant role in the way in which a district earns state aid and the calculation of impact on one child absence is $37.58 a day, according to LISD officials.
Absences in the Four Points schools totaled $56,257 from the days surrounding Winter Break.
There are more absences in Four Points compared to the district. District-wide there are 35,281 students in LISD. On an average day, 3.5 percent or 1,286 LISD students are absent. On Thursday after Winter Break, 3,509 students were absent, making the district-wide absences some 6.5 percent above the average.
LISD encourages attendance
LISD is understanding with discretionary absences for illnesses, marriages and funerals but wants to encourage absences related to vacations to be taken during the specified vacation dates, and not cut into school days.
“Our number one priority is student safety, but if families consider discretionary absences for personal reasons, we ask they consider the amount of time a child is going to be losing instruction,” Sopher said.
“We want our students to receive face to face instruction with their teachers and to encourage students getting the most from collaborative time with their classmates,” Sopher said.