Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Putting Students First: Attendance matters — a lot

Kelseyville Unified Superintendent Dr. Dave McQueen. Courtesy photo.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. — Everyone knows that if you don’t attend school, you’ll miss out on an academic education, but regular attendance at school does a whole lot more for kids — it sets them up for success in life.

Unfortunately, we discovered just how important daily classroom interactions are when they went away during COVID.

We always knew there would be some learning loss during the pandemic. Recent reports and national test scores have confirmed that.

Even before the pandemic, missing school was a problem. Students who miss as little as 15 days of school per year — the Department of Education’s threshold for chronic absence — are at a serious risk of falling behind academically.

This holds true even for the youngest students. At the Kindergarten level, for example, missing just 10 days of school per year can lead to missed academic milestones and an increased likelihood of repeating grades. Social, emotional and behavioral problems can develop, too.

When you pull a kid out of school even for a day, they fall behind. When they return to the classroom, they have to play catch up instead of learning along with their classmates. Unless there’s a really good reason to pull a student out of class (like when they’re sick), it is not fair to put them in that position.

Obviously, if your student is sick, they should stay home. Our first responsibility is to keep everyone safe and we know how serious COVID can be. But, by missing many school days, students’ academics will suffer.

Kids get embarrassed when they fall behind, and they often stay quiet about it. Then that snowballs into a pattern that can affect their confidence, self-esteem and behavior.

Students already feel vulnerable enough; missing school can make them feel worse. This is especially true of our youngest students, who are just beginning to learn and socialize.

So, attendance is important for both academics as well as social and emotional development. Kids need to be around one another to learn from each other. It helps them mature as people, not just students.

I’ve seen firsthand some of the problems caused by students not being in school during the pandemic. We’re still in the process of reminding kids how to get along with each other, to communicate, to consider others, to be kind.

Isolation is not good for humans. Friendships, athletics, extracurricular activities and social get-togethers are a big part of what we offer the community here at Kelseyville Unified School District. Those things are just as fundamental to a good education as reading, writing and math.

So yes, I’m a little more excited than usual this year because it seems like we’ve finally turned a corner. Kids are back where they belong: in school with each other, learning from well-trained educators, hopefully with minimal worry and disruption.

Everyone is going to benefit from this return to normal, especially the students. They’ll be in an environment that offers them an education founded on substance and community. They’ll have the chance to graduate high school with a strong academic foundation.

And last but not least, they’ll build relationships and develop social skills that will help them deal with their emotions and guide them through the ups-and-downs of life.

Attending school every single day improves academic performance and allows for more social and emotional development. Plus, there’s something to be said for showing up, right?

Going to school every day is the best way for kids to get the most out of all that school has to offer, which sets them up for a good life down the road.

At Kelseyville Unified School District, we can help you and your students get to school every day at Kelseyville Elementary, Riviera Elementary, Mountain Vista Middle School, Kelseyville High School, Ed Donaldson Continuation High School, Kelseyville Community Day School and Kelseyville Learning Academy.

We have a program to fit every student, to help them attend school in a way that works best for them. Let’s work together to help kids attend and succeed.

Dr. Dave McQueen is superintendent for the Kelseyville Unified School District.

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