By LYNETTE HAALAND
Four Points News
Student absences in the days surrounding “February Break” 2017 cost Leander ISD more than an estimated $229,160 and student absences in Four Points made up more than $64,000 of the total.
The total was actually higher but this report just examines the two days closest to the student holiday, which was Feb. 6 – 7 when teachers took part in staff development.
Student absences cost LISD an estimated $115,760 on Friday, Feb. 3 leading up to the break and $113,400 on Wednesday, Feb. 8 after the official student break ended.
LISD schools in Four Points — 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 — contributed to that total by an estimated $32,440 on Friday, Feb. 3 and $31,720 on Wednesday, Feb. 8, for a total of $64,160.
The 2017 monetary impact on LISD is derived from the number of absences multiplied by $40 per student, which is the calculation of impact on one child absence.
“Since school funding is tied to ADA (Average Daily Attendance), each day that a student misses costs the district approximately $40 in funding. Loss of funds can affect many areas and programs that already feel the strain of tight budgets,” said Terry Abbott, LISD chief communications officer.
This year’s ADA is up from $36.72/student in 2014 and $39.30/student in 2016.
On an average school day in 2017, some 3.5 percent of students, or 1,363, are absent across the entire district of 38,261 students.
In Four Points this year, there are 7,990 students enrolled and the average school day absences run at 3.3 percent, or 260, which is slightly lower than LISD as a whole.
But during the two days surrounding the February student holiday this year, absences increased to 10 percent in Four Points schools with 811 absences recorded on Feb. 3 and 793 recorded on Feb. 8.
The district-wide numbers of student absences are closer to 7.5 percent, with 2,894 absent on Feb. 3 and 2,835 absent on Feb. 8 this year.
More students were absent from Four Points area schools compared to district-wide numbers.
This was the case in 2016 as well where Four Points schools ended up between 10.4 percent and 11 percent of absences in the Friday and Wednesday surrounding “February Break” compared to LISD’s 7 percent and 6.85 percent on the respective days.
A large portion of these absences are unexcused. “February Break” has been on the LISD calendar for years and used to include one more day off for the students, and therefore many LISD families have planned trips during the break including big trips like ski trips and cruises. The LISD calendar for next school year does not have a “February Break” because the staff development has been moved to different dates.
For years, this student holiday in February has cost the district money because of the extra days students are gone surrounding the break. But officials say that the loss from student absences goes way beyond money.
Children receive the maximum benefit of education by being in school every day. There are numerous studies that show a strong link between academic performance and consistent attendance. For students, lost instruction time can lead to decreased retention of knowledge and learning at all ages, Abbott said.
“It also becomes a challenge for teachers to help catch students up who have missed school while continuing with the pace and depth of curriculum that has been established,” Abbott said. “While some families may have resources to help their child catch up, others do not and students can fall behind very quickly.”
When students miss a lot of school, they may also lose the connection to their school and peers while feeling lost or out of place, he said.
“Academic achievement can also suffer which can affect a school’s accountability ratings and will further contribute to lower district accountability ratings,” Abbott added.
He said the attendance rate this year is about the same as last year overall.