As the midway point of the 2019-2020 school year nears, Skyline High School Principal Michael Smith is reaching out to the community for help with student absenteeism.

Smith is concerned about the number of students missing school. He said that of the 889 students at the school now, 19.9% are on the track to become chronically absent.

“I believe that educating the community on the importance of school attendance will drastically decrease our chronic absentee rate and lead to students obtaining the critical information that can only be absorbed through attendance in the classroom,” Smith said.

In September, Skyline High School was deemed accredited with conditions by the Virginia Department of Education due to the school having a 29% chronic absentee rate during the 2018-2019 school year. Chronic absenteeism became a part of the state’s accreditation process this year along with the Standards of Learning test scores.

“Our attendance rate needs to show improvement each year or eventually Skyline High School will become a non-accredited school, which will impact our students and the community,” Smith said. “It is my goal for that to never happen, and the first step in this process is to inform the community about our situation and come together to solve the issue.”

As a part of the school accreditation process, chronic absenteeism is divided into three tiers. A rate of 15% of students and lower is considered acceptable and requiring no corrective action; 16-24% would require the Virginia Department of Education to implement a school improvement plan; 25 percent or higher would trigger a remedial action initiative from the Virginia Department of Education.

Smith said that the school has instituted programs to help combat absenteeism. One program is a mentor program for Tier 2 and Tier 3 students. The program casts teachers at the school as mentors who make contact with students or parents each day the student is absent. Warren County Public Schools began using this initiative for all of its schools during the 2018-2019 school year.

Smith said that the school’s administration also has meetings with students and parents/guardians about the student’s absence and then with a truancy officer.

“I have personally had 41 attendance meetings to date,” he said.

Warren County Public Schools adopted this initiative and two others in the past few years to help combat the rising absentee numbers. The other initiatives include Challenge 5 — a program that lets students and parents know that five absences each school year, starting in kindergarten, increases the chances of dropping out of school and having teachers at the schools greet students.

Smith said that if parents or guardians have any questions or concerns, contact him at Skyline High School at 540-631-0366 or email him at mesmith@wcps.k12.va.us.

– Contact Donald Lambert at dlambert@nvdaily.com