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The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

New Trier introduces new, stricter attendance policy

New Trier administrators try to combat rising absence rates with increased consequences and support for chronically absent students
After students receive two tardies to advisery in a quarter, they get a 30-minute detention for every subsequent tardy

Absence rates at New Trier have worsened over the past few years, with more than 25% of students last year chronically absent, defined as missing 10% or more of school. Now, the school wants to make clear that attendance is not optional through its revised attendance policy. 

When absences continue to occur, students risk temporarily losing free periods and extracurriculars.

“We [are] getting back to the basics,” Scott Williams, assistant principal for the class of 2024, said in reference to signing in and out of school. “The reality is that [policy] used to be much more enforced with students, and students were much more following [of that] process.”   

The school recently pushed out an Attendance Handbook that clarifies and explicitly states the expectations regarding attendance. The newly implemented Graduating Class Teams created the handbook. 

Last school year, the school established the GCTs to respond to the increasing need for academic and social-emotional support among high school students. And one part under the umbrella of support they provide is attendance. 

The GCTs are each led by an assistant principal, who oversees and coordinates the work of two adviser chairs, advisers, and social service liaisons. The assistant principals provide extra support to the team when needed.

“We’re there to support primarily the work that the adviser chairs are doing with the advisers, but if a situation escalates to where a student is missing an excessive amount of school, that is when our role steps in a little bit more,” Williams said. 

Regular attendance “leads to improved academic achievement and strengthens students’ punctuality, self-discipline, and personal accountability,” according to the Attendance Handbook. 

Students are expected to attend every class, including advisery. When students are tardy to advisery twice in a quarter, they receive a 30-minute morning detention for every subsequent tardy. Once a student reaches eight tardies, they are then referred to the adviser chair. 

New this year is the implementation of a consistent tiered approach of support toward students who may soon become chronically absent. 

If there are trends or patterns starting to emerge, we can intervene with different supportive measures or strategies to help students to improve their attendance or if there is support needed, we can help possibly provide that support through different measures,” Trish Sheridan, assistant principal for the class of 2026, said. 

And for teachers, they are required this school year to take attendance twice during a block, once before the break and once after. That means two absences from one class is equivalent to missing one full block. 

With the tiered approach, when students have seven absences from one class, advisers communicate with students and families about the importance of attendance. But when absences continue to occur, students risk temporarily losing free periods and extracurriculars. At 15 absences, however, that student may receive a pass/fail grade or no credit for the course, in which case students would need to repeat the course. 

The attendance policies are also designed to ensure the safety of students. 

This year, only seniors are allowed to leave campus on foot during lunch. Juniors are no longer allowed. 

“The past couple of years, especially with COVID, we were very loose with students kinda leaving campus,” Williams said. “It is a safety [and] security measure, primarily, but it’s also about, let’s make sure we stay in school. We have [an] abundance of resources here, and we’re landlocked in a residential area. Where do you really need to go?”

If a student is absent for four 40-minute periods in a day, whether excused or unexcused, they are not allowed to participate in New Trier extracurricular activities that day. This particular policy has raised concern among students.

“I mean, just as a debater, someone who wants to represent New Trier at activities, [it] is a little disconcerting, because life does happen and happens in difficult moments,” junior Nathan Heftman said.

The school, however, believes that attendance at school and participation in extracurricular activities go hand and hand. 

“There is value in students being in school if they want to participate in extracurriculars,” Williams said. 

For administrators, consistent student attendance helps prepare students for after high school. But it also is a way to unite the school community after a couple of years of students not being at school in person full-time. 

“We’re a school because of the community of students that come here,” said Sarah Struebing, assistant principal for the class of 2025. “We really want families to prioritize that in a way that kinda brings us all back together as a community more holistically again.”

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