(Seguin) -- Whether it's an excused or unexcused absence, it is important that students don't fall into a chronic pattern of missing school. That's the message behind the school district's "Missing Matadors Matter" campaign -- a campaign that will hopefully reach all households and businesses in the Seguin ISD.
Kirsten Legore, Seguin ISD's executive director of student services, says now that the school year is well into the fall semester, the message of getting kids to class is proving to be even more important.
"What the state does is it qualifies chronic absences as missing so much school for any reason whatsoever that a student is academically at risk. It's really defined as missing 10 percent or more of school for any reason and 10 percent is really about one day a month over the course of a school year. So you look at how do those absences come together. Well you got the excused absences -- so those are students that are sick, going to the doctor, funeral, family issues, any issue that a student may not be in school, but there is an excuse as to why. Then, you've got your unexcused absences and that is truancy. That's really what this team has always been heavily involved in and dealing with the students who do not have an excused reason as to why they are absent. Those are the cases that wind up in court, but by March, there's many more students absent from school that have excuses but still have too many absences. Also added up with that is your suspension. That is what adds up to our chronic absence which is a statewide issue. We want to make sure that those numbers stay as low as possible," said Legore.
Legore says when students are absent, they miss valuable instruction and it negatively impacts district
funding and the child’s overall education.
"We know that attendance matters. Students who go to school are more exposed to language and that is very key in learning to read. So starting in pre-k, attendance equals exposure to language rich environments. That's especially key for low income students. They are learning to be tasked and do things on time. Students only benefit from classroom instruction if they're there. We have great classroom instruction going on, but if students aren't there, they miss it. Then when they get back to school, the teacher has to back up for those students who missed it and need to be moving ahead for the students who were there and it just becomes a really constant battle for our teachers to have to deal with. Students who go to school and have good attendance are on track for success. We know that chronic absences are exactly the issue that lead to a student not reading by third grade. If they are not reading by third grade, the chances of them having trouble in middle or high school are much greater and then their chance of dropping out is much greater. So it all goes back to attendance and reading by third grade," said Legore.
She says attendance also hinders students from being college or career ready. If they are not there or late, then chances are that child as an adult will get fired.
Legore says the initiative speaks directly to the parents and guardians who are at the forefront of helping their child get to school. She says often times, most causes for absenteeism, can be corrected immediately.
"We have the parent brochure, so Missing Matadors Matter. Well, who do they matter to? Missing Matadors Matter to parents. So what we do to talk to them about their students who are not going to school is we have this parent brochure which is very full of good information including what parents can do to help their kids and help the school and make sure their kids are there such as when to schedule appointments, knowing needing to have their children there at that 10:30 in the morning hour, what to do if their child's not there, avoiding those vacations and scheduling them during times that we already breaks built into the calendar and having a plan B. You know parents when they wake up late, alarm clocks don't work, transportation is not working, always knowing what to do next because those things happen. So we work with parents to develop what those things are," said Legore.
While the parents are first to be held accountable, missing school is a community issue and begins by being vigilant -- a message included in "Missing Matadors Matter."
"This is a poster that we want businesses to post which is saying to the community that we are proud supporters of the Missing of Matadors Matters initiative. That they support what this is all about and that they want students to be going to school as well. We want to really increase the community awareness. When people see this logo, they will see, 'oh Missing Matadors Matter. That's what that's about.' We want these posters to be everywhere. That involves how we partner up with businesses. We want them to know about the phone number on the bottom for anyone in the community. If you see a student who looks like they should be in school and they're not there, give us a call and we will go look into it," said Legore.
The Seguin ISD truancy hotline is 830-401-8617. Those having difficulty in getting their child to school are asked to contact their respective campus for assistance.