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New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

The numbers prove to be the only success with new attendance policy

New Trier’s new attendance policy has made more issues for students than just attendance
Attendance Office is located in Room 217 at the Winnetka campus

On Monday, Nov. 13, the New Trier High School Board of Education announced the attendance data for the first 50 days of school with the new attendance policy in place. The number of chronically absent students has shrunk from 24% to 8%. This policy has proven successful in combating chronic absenteeism. Congratulations, New Trier: According to the data, the policy is working, but let me explain to you what the data doesn’t show.

It feels like they expect students to just ignore fevers and coughs and sore throats and to come into school anyway.

At the start of September, there was a small influx of Covid cases at New Trier. I, along with several of my peers, was out for over five days with the virus. Consequently, I started the year with five to six absences in each class. The number climbs so high because each 40-minute period counts as one absence. If you miss a full 80-minute block, you have two absences. That put me just under seven absences, which meant if I missed one more class, my attendance would be flagged, and my adviser would have to talk to me and call my parents. These absences don’t even count the rare sick day I took that was unrelated to COVID-19, either.

As a senior, I also chose to go and visit colleges during the fall. Within two months, I found myself edging closer and closer to 11 absences and soon 15 in one or two of my classes. 

The attendance policy simply has been getting in the way. All of my absences have clear and valid reasons. I also communicated with my teachers about when and why I would not be in class, and I made sure to get caught up before returning to class. My grades are not struggling, and I continue to learn even though I am not always in the classroom. 

The pandemic has taught us that it’s not hard to learn things outside of school. During my freshman year, much of the learning was done off zoom through videos and readings. More specifically, from my bed. I kept good grades and still learned quite a lot of new material throughout that year.  

Teachers now give us new material and readings in class, and we sit there reading for 30 minutes. It is something I can spend my time doing outside of class. Due to a mixture of the 85-minute classes and trying to make up for potentially missed topics from COVID-19, we are spending more time in the classroom doing things that are better known as busy work. 

It raises another problem when I can keep up with all my school work and maintain good grades in all my classes, even when I am missing school every so often. It makes me and other students wonder how important the work assigned in class is. 

I am worried about getting sick or planning a weekend to visit my brothers in college and having to miss half a day. What will happen if I eventually miss 15 classes? Do I get a pass/fail grade? Or do I get fully dropped from whatever class it is? 

My biggest question to the school is: do you consider other statistics or is it just how many of each class a student has missed? I want to know if my grades mean anything to the school when they talk about how many times I’ve missed my English class. 

I am trying my hardest to not miss school and be there as much as possible, but life happens. People get sick and people have doctor appointments or college visits. Life is too short for me as a 17-year-old to be worrying about constantly being in school. 

Frankly, these new rules don’t make me feel that the school has my and my peers’ best interests in mind. I am resentful during my last year of high school because I am constantly being reminded that I am missing a class even when the absence is out of my control. I don’t feel any more motivated to come to school even with everyone breathing down my neck.  

I do understand the purpose of the attendance policy. It was cited that more than 25% of students last year were chronically absent, defined as missing 10% or more of school. Students have been more chronically absent since COVID-19 than ever before and it is something the school should be looking at. But at a school as big as New Trier, we can’t have an all-or-nothing policy for anything. Because of student uniqueness, it is just as important that other factors of attendance need to be taken into account other than me not physically being in the school building. 

When I had a conversation about my attendance, it felt like I was being asked not to get COVID or to come to school sick. When I relayed my interpretation back, I got a defensive response and was told to never come to school sick. But it feels like they expect students to just ignore fevers and coughs and sore throats and to come into school anyway. 

So, my sincerest congratulations to New Trier for another successful policy implemented. Next time, think about considering something other than numbers.

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