Effective Practices : Extended Student Absence
Extended Student Absence
Pedagogical Operations Section 2
1. Has your school had experience with cases of extended student absence? If yes, in what grades have you had this experience?
2. Describe how your school dealt with the extended absence. If possible, describe a situation from each area of the school (early childhood, lower school, middle school, and high school).
3. Has your school developed any written policies describing how this situation is handled or approached in your school? Attach a copy of your policy or procedure if available.
4. What is your school’s philosophy with regard to managing extended student absences?
5. What is working especially well with regard to managing situations of extended student absence in your school?
6. If you could make any changes with regard to your handling of extended student absences, what would they be and why?
Has your school had experience with cases of extended student absence? If yes, in what grades have you had this experience?
Every Waldorf school has had situations of extended student absence. These absences occur for a variety of reasons, and can affect students in any grade.
Describe how your school dealt with the extended absence. If possible, describe a situation from each area of the school (early childhood, lower school, middle school, and high school).
The reasons for extended absence run a wide gamut. In some cases parents are on tour or temporarily employed outside of the area, and wish to keep their families together during this time. In other cases the student may be experiencing severe medical or psychological illness that prevents him or her from attending class. One school described a situation where a family always traveled during the first month of school, and asked that their children be admitted to the school a month after classes had begun.
In general schools work to address each of these situations on a case by case basis, and try to always act with the needs of the student and the class as the foremost concern. The ability to meet the student’s needs varies greatly depending on the age and grade of the student. Schools have the greatest flexibility in the kindergarten as there are fewer concerns with a student’s ability to re-enter the class socially and there are no academic issues to address per se.
Similarly, issues are fairly cut and dried by the time a student is in the high school. Older students have the ability to gain information from reading material and other resources, and may be able to produce sufficient homework and other assignments to pass a class. This is not always possible, and schools must be clear in these situations that those classes will have to be made up in summer session.
The issue is the most problematic in the lower school. Children in the earliest grades benefit greatly from the routine of coming to school each day and from the socialization that takes place in the classroom. These experiences are quite difficult for a young child to make up, even if he or she is academically precocious. Main lesson material cannot be made up by young children, as their reading skills are not yet at a level that material can be passed on in this way. In the upper grades it is possible to ask the student to do outside reading and additional homework so that some of the material can be mastered outside of class.
One school that frequently has parents out of town on tour has made it a policy to accommodate these situations in the kindergarten, but parents are told that a condition of acceptance into the grade school is that the student may no longer tour with his parents for any extended time. Another school described a situation in which a student had bone cancer. The school did its best to welcome the student into the class whenever she was well enough. She had extended periods of absence and during this time received tutoring at home through the public school system. The school continued to work to meet this student’s needs until her death.
Has your school developed any written policies describing how this situation is handled or approached in your school? Attach a copy of your policy or procedure if available.
Schools are well served when the handbook states clearly that elective absences are strongly discouraged and must be prearranged with the class teacher or sponsor. Class work is not excused because of absence, and it is the student’s responsibility to work with the teacher to catch up on all missed assignments. In some cases mandatory study hall periods are assigned.
One school’s handbook states that in cases where a student is absent 15% or more the school may require study in an approved summer school and may also require additional foreign language classes. This school also requires a parent teacher conference in cases of high absenteeism. The handbook also notes that excessive absence may necessitate academic probation and/or expulsion.
What is your school’s philosophy with regard to managing extended student absences?
We try to work with the particular situation facing the family within the guidelines for attendance set by the school.
Student absence is treated seriously, and may affect a student’s ability to return in the fall. Particular attention is paid as a student transitions into the first grade and the high school.
We work to address a particular student’s needs in a way that is cognizant of both the social and the educational impact of an extended absence.
Conditional acceptance into a class is used whenever we perceive the absence is affecting the child or the class in a negative way.
We really work to ask the question, “How is this best for the child?” when considering cases of extended student absence.
We are not a drop-in school, and our approach to education is highly dependent on a student being present in a consistent way.
What is working especially well with regard to managing situations of extended student absence in your school?
We have been able to find a way in most cases to work with the individual situations before us while also supporting the child and complying with the general guidelines set out by the school regarding absence.
The school demands that a parent come in and meet with the school when an absence is extended.
Extended absences due to parent obligations may be accommodated in the Early Childhood Center, but it can be a cause of dismissal or non-acceptance in the grades and the high school.
If you could make any changes with regard to your handling of extended student absences, what would they be and why?
We continue to amend our written policies in our handbook as we encounter new and different situations with regard to extended student absence.