The Need to be in Class
By Kim Tran
The sight of empty desks is nothing new at Novato High. Truancy is an ongoing, problematic issue facing many high schools.
In the Novato High student planner, truancy is defined as “any student who is absent from school without valid excuse for more than three days or tardy in excess of 30 minutes on each of three or more days in a school year.” After more than three days, a Student Attendance Review Board (SARB) meeting is required.
The SARB meeting is to help the student and parents find a solution to stop their truant patterns. Sometimes, the solution to fixing a student's truancy is to transfer them to another school that is more convenient to accessible to the student and parents.
Simply missing a class does not qualify as truancy. When 150 Novato High students walked out of class to protest the results of the Presidential election, it was categorized an unexcused absence. Truancy is a pattern, while the walkout was a one-time event.
Being at school on time is important in the case of “per people allotment.” This means that the school receives funding for each student that attends on a given day. Students that aren’t at school contribute to the loss of funding that could be necessary for the school.
Nancy Walker, Director of Fiscal Services for NUSD, reported that $8,346 per student is made annually. To obtain the money for the day, the student must attend at least one period a day.
Walker also reported the amount of money subtracted from the school each day.
“Any day a student is absent, excused or unexcused, the state subtracts $63.23 for each day,” said Walker.
Novato High Assistant Principal Jenn Nickl knows it is essential for students to be in class.
“It is extremely important that we be able to have as many people at school for five periods a day,” said Nickl. “Everybody is in some way a funding source that we can use to buy books, pay teachers, create new programs, get supplies, whatever we need.”
Nickl also discussed the percentage of students that are attending school.
“Last year they were around 94%, meaning 94% of all of our students were in school in a given day,” said Nickl.
Evan Underwood-Jett, a World History and U.S. History teacher at Novato High, described a solution for fixing truancy.
“You want to have internal incentives and part of that is getting kids ready and excited to learn,” said Underwood. “So, if we can get the students really involved in that pressure for other students to come, then hopefully that would be a solution.”
Sophomore Sophie Pekic offered a different approach to fixing truancy.
“You can't really fix truancy,” said Pekic. “Maybe if you had more severe consequences.”
Truancy rates remain a problem at Novato High.