NCW — While schools have resumed in-person classes, districts around the state reported significantly lower attendance rates.
The trend is even more pronounced locally, with school officials working to remind students of the importance of daily attendance.
Statewide, about 85% of students during the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years regularly attended classes, according to data from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Regular attendance is defined as missing less than half of a school day — excused or unexcused — fewer than two times per month.
During the 2021-2022 school year, with schools back to pre-pandemic operations, this dipped to 67%. And local school districts have seen an even more significant drop.
The Wenatchee School District had an 84% regular attendance rate in 2017-2018 but a 62.4% rate last school year. Lake Chelan had a roughly 87% regular attendance rate pre-pandemic and a 72.3% last year.
In Eastmont, the district had a roughly 87% regular attendance rate during the two school years pre-pandemic and a 51% rate during the 2021-2022 school year.
Each grade in the Eastmont School District saw at least a 25-point drop in regular attendance rates between the 2018-2019 school year and the 2021-2022 school year.
Among all grade levels, full-day Kindergarteners saw the biggest drop, with a 43.1% regular attendance rate last year. Less than half of full-day kindergarteners, first graders, second graders, seventh graders, eighth graders, ninth graders and twelfth graders attended class regularly last year.
Matt Charlton, Eastmont’s assistant superintendent and executive director of secondary education, said attendance has improved. Through February, the district has a regular attendance percentage rate in the mid-60s this year.
“It looks as if we’ll have a pretty dramatic improvement over last year,” he said.
Eastmont established a committee to review attendance data and develop strategies to increase attendance. Charlton said the district is also reviewing its absence reporting protocol, especially at the secondary level, to see if that contributes to the reported increase.
During a roundtable conversation at Monday’s school board meeting, Sterling Junior High teachers anecdotally cited family circumstances and, in some cases video games, as sources for some of the increase in student absences.
One teacher said a student missed his first period class for a week after their phone, which is used as an alarm, was taken away as a punishment.
Across the district, schools communicate with the families of frequently absent students, and some have begun encouraging attendance through a rewards system.
A child success plan for Grant Elementary includes possible strategies to increase regular attendance, such as rewards and scheduling appointments during non-school hours.
“It’s up to us to communicate expectations,” Charlton said.
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