DCPS adopts a new attendance policy for online learning

Madison Dias

On August 31, DCPS adopted a new way of recording attendance through Canvas for the duration of online learning. Some teachers are also taking attendance during their synchronous classes. 

Students must log into Canvas every school day including Wednesdays in order to be counted as present. According to the class of 2022 Attendance Counselor, Tiara Pearson, “Between 6 am and 11:59 pm” a student must log into Canvas in order to be counted as present. Before online learning, in-person learning attendance was taken per class period by the teachers. 

Attendance counselors were informed of the change in attendance processing via email. DCPS hosted “multiple virtual [Professional Development days] where [they] learned the new system and got a chance to practice,” Pearson said. However, Pearson was unclear on the ultimate decision “until the mayor made her statement on what was going to happen for the following school year.”

Canvas is able to take and monitor attendance through “student activity in Canvas” (dcpsreopenstrong.com). Student activity in Canvas includes logging into Canvas, clicking on the link for the day’s activities, clicking on a Teams meeting, opening a course, or working on an assignment. Any activity in the application will automatically transfer to Aspen and translate into attendance for that day. 

Sophomore Kenefere Kamani spoke of the modified version of taking attendance, “I feel like it’s confusing and they should just give us the day off on Wednesdays [to] let us work and catch up because I feel like a lot of kids [unintentionally] forget,” which ultimately hurts their attendance record. Junior Ashley Redhead III shared a different opinion, “I think that it’s fine. It’s really not a bother. All of my classes already implement it so it doesn’t really get in the way.” 

Christina Crotty, a Wilson social studies teacher, explains how during in-person learning she would “usually take attendance while [students were] doing their warm up, adjusting as kids [arrived].” She thought of this process as “a lot easier because you could just look around the room and put faces and names together.” 

Crotty, along with many other teachers, is taking attendance during her synchronous learning periods. Crotty explains the difficulties of online attendance—“There are many who don’t have a consistent connection to internet, including me, so now I download the teams participant list twice during synchronous lectures—once about 10 minutes after the start of class time and once again before I dismiss the class.” Many teachers are using their synchronous attendance to complete students’ engagement grades. 

Excused absences this year include the student being ill, the student’s child being ill, doctor or dental appointments, death in immediate family, exclusion quarantine by direction of the authorities of DC, religious holidays and events, and college visits. Written notes must be provided electronically to the school within five school days after the student’s absence. 

If a student from ages five to 17 receives three days of unexcused absences, DCPS will be completing a wellness check by phoning the parents or guardians, rather than receiving a letter as in previous years. If a student is inexcusably absent for seven days, parents/guardians will receive a Metropolitan Police Department warning letter.