February 11, 2014
It took longer than anticipated, but Richmond County Schools released on Monday the attendance data on Saturday school for students that occurred on Feb. 1.
The numbers don’t look very good. The rates of absenteeism ranges from 28 percent (57 students among 205) at Ellerbe Middle School to 55 percent (101 out of school among 183) at Leak Street School. By its own grading system, where 70-76 is a D and anything below 70 is failing, only one school — Ellerbe Middle School — received a passing grade with 72 percent of its students in attendance.
Through Mallory Brown, director of public relations at Richmond County Schools, Superintendent George Norris “noted that attendance was not good.”
It’s easy to say the Feb. 1 session of Saturday school was a failure. But it doesn’t have to be this way. We believe Saturday school can work and it wouldn’t take much to make it happen.
While lacking the data to compare the Feb. 1 attendance rates to those in years past, it’s likely the short notice given to parents and students on Jan. 31 — a Friday, less than 18 hours before the start of an abbreviated day of Saturday school — played a significant role in low attendance rates.
If the members of the Richmond County Board of Education, Superintendent George Norris and other administrative officials feel it’s in the district’s best interest to have makeup days on a Saturday, so be it. That can become the norm. The best way that can happen is, from the start of each academic year in late summer, have the board pre-approve a general, blanket policy with words to this effect: “If a school day is missed due to inclement weather in a given week, the Saturday of that week will, weather permitting, be used as a makeup day.”
This way parents, students, teachers and district staff alike will know from the outset this is a possibility and, should a day be missed in January or February, then the very next Saturday will be used to as a makeup day. Planning in advance also would allow district officials to eliminate certain Saturdays from consideration for special events that are, generally, placed on an academic calendar months ahead of time.
The next two makeup days will be Feb. 12 and March 26. We have a feeling attendance will be much higher on those dates not only because each date is a Wednesday but also because of the advance notice given to relevant stakeholders.