On June 17 of this year, Wallingford adopted a revised policy on school absences, which has in turn created a great deal of confusion in our office. I had the opportunity last week to go over this with Kathy Neelon, the Nurse Coordinator for the district and wanted to share some of the points from that discussion. For anyone interested, I am also including a link to the updated policy below.
First of all, as many of you probably know, the town was responding to a new directive from state to tighten and update its approach to students with frequent absences. Thus, the new policy particularly targets students with more than 9 absences in a single school year by requiring that all subsequent absences (#10 and up) be excused according to stricter guidelines. However, a note from us regarding a necessary doctor’s visit is explicitly the first qualifying reason for such an absence to be excused. So, the policy change should not serve as a reason to avoid bringing sick children to the doctor, if that is where parents think they should go. That was not the policy makers’ intent. Just ask us for a note.
There are several other points relating to this question of excused absences that apparently need clarification. (1) For the first 9 missed days, a parent’s note is just as good with regard to the absence being excused. The school is only requiring a doctor’s note for absences related to illness for days 10 and up. Every winter cold does not require a doctor visit, but parents will need to write a note to the school. (1a) An exception to that occurs when students wish to return to school on the same day following a doctor’s visit. Same day returns will apparently always require a note from us. (2) When a doctor’s note is supplied, the town is expecting that those notes reflect an actual doctor’s visit related to the illness or injury in question, and not merely a phone call. (3) Contrary to rumor, the town is not reporting student absences to any centralized state database. I know some teachers have said this, but I am informed this is just not true.
Secondly, leaving school early does not count as an absence (of any kind) if the student was present for more than 50% of the day. This was actually a point of confusion with one of the school nurses recently, but Kathy Neelon was very clear in our conversation. Of note, however, the question of excused/unexcused absences is very different from the problem of getting credits for classes in high school. Too many unexcused absences and a student may be considered truant, a term with important legal ramifications and the focus of this new policy. In contrast, missing too many math classes may mean you don’t get credit for math. Also a problem, but a different problem and not a new one. Unfortunately, a doctor’s note will generally not get you credit for attending a class you missed.
Don’t know if this helps anyone, but I think I understand it a bit better now. My thanks to Kathy Neelon for taking the time to go over all this with me.