Great Bend USD 428 is encouraging students to start the new school year with a goal of good attendance. September is National Attendance Awareness Month and on Friday Karla Martinez, attendance and behavior interventionist at Great Bend High School, spoke to freshman and sophomore JAG-K students about setting attendance goals.
Martinez first explained what truancy is and how missing just two days of school each month ads up to 18 days or 10% of the school year. Starting her fourth-year at GBHS, Martinez plans to use intervention strategies to support students and encourage school attendance this year, school officials said.
Success in school starts at home, Superintendent Khris Thexton said.
“A key step is reminding families about the critical role they play in getting children to school on time every day,” he said. “Parents or caregivers can help develop the habit of good attendance by enforcing bedtimes and other routines, as well as avoiding vacations while school is in session.”
Across the country, nearly 8 million students miss nearly a month of school every year — absences that can correlate with poor performance at every grade level — according to AttendanceWorks.org.
This trend starts as early as kindergarten and continues through high school, contributing to achievement gaps and ultimately to dropout rates. In Great Bend, attendance rates reported in 2018 were 92.7, falling short of the state average of 94.5, Thexton said.
“Our building principals monitor attendance numbers closely,” said Thexton. “We want to know how many students have a high rate of absenteeism, who they are, and do our best to understand why.”
At Great Bend High School, Martinez’s focus as the attendance and behavior interventionist is shifting slightly this year from discipline to intervention. Instead of automatic In School Suspension after an unexcused absence, students will now spend a week in lunch detention in Martinez’s office.
“The goal of the intervention is to develop a relationship with the student and to get to the root cause of why the student is missing school,” said Martinez. “Now that students know who I am and what I do in my position, I’m optimistic that interventions will start to address and overcome some of the issues that prevent students from getting to school every day.”
Attendance on Sept. 20 will provide the official headcount for the Kansas State Department of Education Audit. In an August school board meeting, school administration reported that total enrollment on Aug. 19 was 2,743 and the anticipated enrollment for Sept. 20 is 2,850. Last year’s enrollment at Great Bend High School was 856 and on Aug. 19 there were 775 students enrolled, with an anticipated final enrollment of 882.
Aug. 19 enrollment at other schools was:
• Eisenhower 320
• Jefferson 275
• Lincoln 247
• Park 231
• Riley 263; plus 36 4-year-old preschoolers and 15 3-year-old preschoolers
• Helping Hands 89
• GBMS 7th grade 253
• GBMS 8th grade 239