Inaccurate attendances as students quarantine with COVID

Camila Reinoso

Students who quarantined earlier in the school year received unexcused absences for the days of school that they missed, causing their attendance records to be inaccurate. Having too many unexcused absences threatens participation in sports, extracurriculars, and even seniors’ ability to attend graduation.

Increased absences due to the COVID-19 surge in January and February created a delay in Jackson-Reed’s attendance system. 

“That was a major, major challenge, because obviously we’ve never had that many students absent at one time,” Attendance Counselor Clarence Alston said.

When a student tested positive for COVID-19, the school was required to follow DCPS and CDC guidelines, and inform the students and parents of the 10 day quarantine requirements. “[Absences from COVID-19] had to be put in the system for every single student, and we’re still kind of recouping from that,” Alston said. 

With the delay in the attendance system, many students’ attendances have not been recorded correctly. Sophomore Matilda Prikk’s absences were only marked as excused when her family contacted the Jackson-Reed Administration. 

 “At this point even if I’m sick, I’m scared to stay home because they’ll mark me [unexcused] no matter if I sign the form or not,” Prikk said.

According to Jackson-Reed policy, if a student is going to be absent, they must fill out the short online form with information about the student and their reason for absence. There are four attendance counselors, one for each grade, and each is individually responsible for all attendance matters within that grade. 

Jackson-Reed’s attendance policy states that student athletes cannot have more than 3 unexcused absences. 

One student was absent from school for a couple days for a procedure due to a recurring health issue, and was not able to fill out the attendance form. Even when they provided the school with a note from the hospital, their missed days were marked unexcused. As an athlete, this student is worried their absences will affect their chances of continuing a collegiate athletic career. 

Health Teacher and Track Coach Clemmons added that absences are also considered in city-wide competitions.

Unfortunately in the past, [absences have] caused members of the team to not be able to participate in meets,” Clemmons said. “I do believe this sets us back in terms of public school students and student athletes in comparison to our private school counterparts,” she continued. 

According to the Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA), district law requires that students ages 14-17 with 10 or more full school-day unexcused absences within a school year be reported by the school to Court Social Services and the Office of the Attorney General Juvenile Section.

It’s a scary thing to think that you may have to show up to court for an unexcused absence, and your child actually has been excused,” Clemmons added. 

Clemmons is concerned the incorrect notation of absences could have significant consequences for students. “The restrictions can hinder students from having a successful future, particularly when the system has a lot of holes in it, ” she said.