Nfld. & Labrador

Skipping class? N.L. parents asked to keep an eye on attendance

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District is stopping short of an example set by Nova Scotia, which is cracking down on absenteeism.

10 per cent of students missed 18 or more days last year without an excuse, says NLESD

More than 66,000 students are enrolled in Newfoundland and Labrador schools. About one in 10 missed 18 days or more last year due to 'unexplained absences.' (Gary Locke/CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) says about 10 per cent of its students missed 18 or more days of class last year without having a valid excuse.

But the board is giving no indication that it will follow the example of neighbouring Nova Scotia, which took steps last week to crack down on absenteeism.

That province will allow teachers to fail a high school student who misses more than 20 per cent of class time for a given course.

Parents or guardians will be called once a student misses 10 per cent, and the principal will determine if a student is given material covered in missed classes.

A letter Monday from the chair of the NLESD, Goronwy Price, suggests a softer approach.

The message, about "student attendance and family engagement," encourages families to make sure children do show up for school by talking to them and staying in contact with their teachers.

"While data shows attendance issues are more noticeable in intermediate and high school students, attendance patterns are established as early as Kindergarten," Price wrote.

As for a punitive approach, "That certainly hasn't been discussed from a trustee basis or a policy basis within our school district and there's a lot of conversation that needs to take place before I could ever see that outcome," he told the St. John's Morning Show in an interview Tuesday.

The absentee numbers provided in the letter are from the 2016-17 school year and do not include excused absences or time lost because of weather or issues with school buildings.

Price said those issues, combined with skipping school, can result in "a significant amount of lost instructional time."

The NLESD has taken action to help teachers deal with students who don't hand in assignments, announcing on Friday that it was reversing a controversial no-zero policy, which prevented the docking of marks for late or missed work.