Ferndale High School (FHS) is working on developing ways improve attendance. One alternative that would incorporate local business involvement has left some businesses and parents unimpressed.
According to Assistant Superintendent Scott Brittain, attendance is one of three key factors the district is focused on in their push to get kids to graduation. The other two being behavior and course completion.
State of Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction is becoming more focused on absenteeism as well. Recent changes in grade requirements include counting excused absences along with unexcused when determining if a student has enough class time to progress to the next grade or graduate. In the past, families would take their children out of class for vacations and family events as excused absences. Now the state is requiring school districts to report those in the same way as unexcused absences since they represent time the student is not in a class. In addition, field trips and other “out of seat” events can also be counted as absences.
This all is the result of a new focus on absenteeism at the state level, especially chronic absenteeism. A student who has absences totaling more than 10% of total school time (18 or more days in a school year or two days a month) for any reason is considered chronically absent according to the state policy.
FHS grants open campus privileges to all students except freshmen. Brittain said he and
new FHS Principal Jeff Gardner had looked at taking away off-campus privileges for those students who met the “chronically absent” criteria. “They could earn the right to go off-campus again by improving their attendance,” said Brittain.
Some local businesses owners near the FHS campus told Discover Ferndale they or their staff had been recently contacted by school officials about a program aimed at students who had lost their off-campus privileges. As a participant in the program, during lunch periods they were to sell only to students who could prove they had off-campus privileges.
According to Brittain, the means of proving these privileges and what a business would be asked to do if such privileges could not be proven have not been finalized. Brittain said, while he wasn’t the one contacting businesses, he had been told the response from those contacted had been positive.
Discover Ferndale spoke with the owners and managers of three popular lunch businesses near FHS and all confirmed they had been contacted by someone from the school regarding this program. All three also said they saw no reason why they would refuse business to any paying customer, regardless of the proposed school program.
Mugshots Owner Jamie Rubright said as a member of the community, she would like to help. But as a business owner, she is scraping for every customer she can get. “Turning away students would be cutting my own throat,” Rubright told Discover Ferndale. Her espresso business at 5750 Vista Drive sees a large fall off when school is out and has faced additional business challenges while Washington Street has been closed this summer. “Plus, I do not want to worry about vandalism or anything else from kids unhappy about being turned away. It’s just too much to ask,” Rubright added.
Brittain said he has been advising school principals in the Ferndale School District to consider programs promoted on the Attendance Works website. Brittain pointed out community involvement in helping kids stay in school is a key part of the Attendance Works national and state initiatives and is expected to yield the best results.
Principal Gardner told Discover Ferndale that a response from his office would be posted on the FHS Facebook page shortly.