Petaluma City Schools is committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for students. Attendance is a large part of student engagement and success. Research indicates that student success is directly linked to attendance. A student’s academic achievement relies on their ability to be fully present in class with a healthy and balanced physical and mental state. Health and academic achievement are known to coincide with one another. When the health of students is suffering, the risk for poor academic outcomes increases.
The purpose of this message is to provide you with some information about the differences between truancy, chronic absenteeism and the processes in place to support you and your family.
There is a tension between attendance and students attending school who might be ill. We recognize this is often a difficult decision to make, for example between minor allergies and more serious illness. We have asked that you err on the side of caution and not send potentially sick children to school. However, we do want to clarify our systems and definitions with regards to attendance. Please know that above all we consider this a partnership and are here to provide support and resources.
In many cases, absences from school are unavoidable due to health problems, communicable illnesses (Covid-19, flu, Strep Throat etc) or other circumstances. When absences due to illness are frequent, there may be a concern regarding more serious health issues. If your child is experiencing chronic illness or other health conditions preventing them from attending school please contact your school office so we may offer support.
After 14 or more excused absences due to illness, by resolution of the District Board of Education (CCR Title 5, Sec. 421) further absences due to illness should be verified by a note from a physician. We know that visiting a healthcare provider is not easily accessible. We ask that you call the school and speak to our nurse to discuss options to verify additional absences.
Generally speaking, students who miss a defined number of school days, usually about 10 percent or about 15 to 18 days in most school districts, for any reason, are considered chronically absent. And students who are chronically absent are not only at serious risk of falling behind in school, but they also become susceptible to a slew of other harmful consequences.
If your child is identified as chronically absent your family will receive a letter from the PCS drawing your attention to their absences and asking if we can be of support. We may ask to meet with you to better understand how we can be of support.
If a student is truant (see definition below) meaning three or more unexcused absences a process entitled Student Attendance Review Team (SART) takes place. Upon the fourth absence a letter is sent home informing the family that their student has three unexcused absences. If the unexcused absences continue you will receive a second letter with an invitation to meet with the SART. Sample Truancy Letters
During a SART meeting family and staff work together to identify support and resources needed for the student to successfully attend school. This process is meant to be supportive and collaborative. What is a SART meeting?
If unexcused absences continue the school will inform Petaluma City Schools Student Services Department. The Student Services Department would then invite the family to a Student Attendance Review Board (SARB).
A SARB is designed to offer guidance and support with the end result being a contract between the school and family for improved attendance.
If a SARB contract is not fulfilled a referral to the Sonoma County District Attorney is possible. Again, we want to approach the solution to truancy collaboratively with the family. What is a SARB hearing?
The California Legislature defined a truant in very precise language. In summary, it states that a student missing more than 30 minutes of instruction without an excuse three times during the school year must be classified as a truant and reported to the proper school authority. It is a narrow view of attendance problems because it addresses those students who missed school based on reasons not acceptable to California Education Code and PCS Board Policy. Most school attendance policies identify "allowable" reasons students may miss school (e.g., illness). PCS Board Policy and Administrative Regulations, California Education Code
Identifies children who are repeatedly missing school and considerable amounts of instruction. Students are considered chronically absent when they miss 10% of the days for which they are enrolled. The 10% is used since research has shown this is the tipping point for when detrimental consequences begin to occur. When we are able to identify the specific children who are missing large portions of school, we are able to direct resources more strategically and provide appropriate interventions that help them get to school and on track for learning.
Chronic absence is a measure of students who have missed 10% or more of the days in which they were enrolled in the school year.
The chronic absence rate is the portion of students within a grade, district or subgroup that misses 10% or more of the days in which they were enrolled.
Chronic absence needs to be addressed because our ability to identify and support chronically absent students and their families has the potential to help:
reduce the achievement gap,
increase students’ readiness for college and careers.