Educators laud new attendance rules
July 10, 2009
Officials in the Park City School District hope a newly adopted attendance policy helps quell controversy by allowing kids in extra-curricular activities to miss up to 10 days of school per quarter. At issue is how many classes participants in less traditional activities than football, soccer and track can miss.
"It was an emotional issue because there were cases where kids were looking at possibly withdrawing from school in order to pursue their activity," Park City Board of Education President Kim Carson said in a telephone interview. "I think there were students that did choose the activity over school and then there were others who backed off on the activity."
Students at Park City High School compete in ice skating, sing opera and race cars among other specialized pursuits.
"We feel very strongly about supporting these students, but at the same time it has a tremendous impact on our teachers when they’re trying to work with those students on an individual basis to try to keep them caught up," Carson said.
The new policy approved June 16 requires students who miss classes for activities to pre-arrange course and schedule changes with school counselors.
"That helps let teachers know from the get-go that this student will be leaving at a certain point in time," Carson said.
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Maintaining a standard defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act requires a district-wide 93-percent attendance rate, Carson explained.
"We have seen cases where individual students have ended up impacting the overall school’s attendance level to the point of [the school] being really close to the cut off," she added.
Many student athletes in Park City affected negatively by past policies competed in winter sports, said Dave Galusha, former director of the Park City Ski Team.
"It’s a constant issue wherever you live, if you’re a junior ski racer. And many families actually relocate based on the ability of the local school system to work with student athletes," Galusha said in a telephone interview Friday. "That is certainly why we entered into this looking for a way that we can make it work a little better here."
Galusha served on an ad hoc committee which helped draft the attendance-policy changes enacted in June.
"We do have the tradition here in Park City of athletes achieving phenomenally high levels in some of these winter sports," Galusha said.
But students must still make up assignments they miss under the new rules, he explained.
"For a kid who is a gifted ski racer and a great student, and willing to do the work on the road, and willing to make up things, they should have that opportunity," Galusha said. "If a kid doesn’t carry their academic load and do what they need to do to keep grades up, the missing school for their sport should be considered a privilege that they no longer have."
School officials asked how educators in the resort towns of Vail and Aspen, Colo., have accommodated student athletes before the new attendance policy was approved in Park City.
"Nobody has found a perfect solution," Carson said. "In Park City, parents want the best of both worlds. But they realize that there may be some choices that have to be made."