Cover Story: Why are kids skipping school?

Cover Story: Why are kids skipping school?

By Alexis Galarza 

According to the American Institutes for Research, the average attendance rate for an American high school is 89 percent. At this moment 37 percent of Lowry is considered chronically absent. 

Since COVID-19, it seems that many students view school as optional. During the 2020-21 school year, if students contacted their teacher once within the four-month period where everyone was online, they received a passing grade. For the class of 2024, if you emailed your teacher one single time you gained your ticket into high school. 

It appears that students have kept the same mindset since.

Austin Mayo, Vice Principal, wants to refrain from blaming COVID-19 for falling attendance rates. 

“I don’t want to be that person that goes back to the pandemic,” said Mayo. “We’ve trained a generation of students and parents…they still have that mindset of ‘Oh I don’t have to show up as much as I used to and It’s not as important to be there’.”

In order to be considered chronically absent, a student must miss 10 percent of the year or more. In a 180-day school year, that would mean missing 18 days of school or more would make you chronically absent. This includes excused and unexcused absences but does not include school activities. 

Christopher Stevenson, a senior at Lowry, rarely shows up to school. Stevenson blames his attendance record on the school’s neglect.

“I feel like school is kinda pointless at this point because I have bigger dreams than this school,” said Stevenson. “I’m just here for my diploma, so then I can continue to pursue a career in nutrition and become a tattoo artist.”

Lanie Schwartz, a senior, described her attendance as OK and better recently. She has some ideas about improving attendance.

“Either make it fun or have more breaks,” said Schwartz. “ During lunch, our time is so short; at least have our lunches a little longer. That will help with having students want to come; or make classes shorter.

According to Stevenson, Lowry’s curriculum is not too hard to make up once you’ve been gone. 

“I probably come two out of the five days, which usually takes me a day to make up,” said Stevenson. 

Stevenson’s absences become excused and then Stevenson never sees the inside of Mr. Mayo’s office; a loophole some may say. 

“We’ve lost a lot of teeth in our ability to hold people accountable, parents and students,” said Mayo.

However, these absences come with a risk. When students have been tardy for a certain amount of time they are sent to lunch detention. When students have reached the allotted number of unexcused absences, they receive a truancy letter. Before resulting in truancy court, students can meet with the board to create a plan. 

“There is truancy, and you can be cited, and you can lose your driver’s license if you have too many unexcused absences and parents have to pay that fine,” said school counselor Ms. Jessica Mayo. 

Mr. Mayo struggles with finding a way to motivate students at Lowry. 

“We are in the process of doing some research and trying to the best route forward to motivate kids,” said Mr. Mayo. “It’s not just a Lowry high school issue it’s across the country when you look at it.” 

According to Ian Kingsbury, the U.S. Department of Education has noticed the dwindling attendance in schools across America. There are higher rates of absenteeism between different ethnic groups. 

“…absenteeism is more prevalent among Black (20.5%) and Hispanic (17.0%) students compared to White (14.5%) and Asian students (8.6%),” said Kingsbury.

Since the global pandemic, COVID-19 absenteeism has increased dramatically. COVID-19 normalized the idea of not having to attend school and being able to pass the class just fine. 

Luke Fentres is a senior at Lowry peer mentors students in credit redemption. Fentress believes that online classes are easy to complete. 

“The classes are so easy to pass, the students like to cheat which just automatically passes them through the course,” said Fentress. “They could miss a whole year of English and finish the course in a couple of weeks.”

In addition to these accelerated courses that constrict students’ learning, absenteeism can also lead to long-term effects. 

“…irregular attendance can be a predictor of high school drop-out, which has been linked to poor labor market prospects, diminished health, and increased involvement in the criminal justice system,” said Kingsbury. 

Looking at the other side, some students are determined to succeed. The determination to graduate pushes students to not miss school days. 

“I think attendance can be necessary to succeed in school, but it depends on the class,” said 4.023 GPA student Isabella Bartell. 

A trend found among students who miss class is that the work is easy to make up. While this could be true for some students, students who are enrolled in honors and advanced placement classes would disagree. 

“In the past, it would take about four hours to make up two days of work I missed,” said Bartell. “I preferred not to miss school because some teachers couldn’t give me adequate materials to replace what I missed in class.” 

Another student who strives for excellence also agrees that attendance is essential in order to succeed. 

“This to me means when one is not ill, out of town, or gone for a school activity, they should be at school to maximize their own learning and success,” said Caleb Hales. 

Hales carries a 4.0 G.P.A. unweighted, 4.01 unweighted. 

“In my opinion, attendance is necessary for success in school,” said Hales. 

According to Kingsbury, since the pandemic, there has been a “0.8  percentage point decrease in chronic absenteeism.” 

According to Lowry’s chronic absenteeism is getting better as the years go on. In the previous academic year, the percentage of chronic absenteeism was 41 percent. 

The website gives suggestions for ways to combat absenteeism. Some of these include texting parents. 

Mr. Mayo disagrees with the federal suggestions and claims that combating chronic absenteeism is a much harder task than it seems. 

“Fighting chronic absenteeism is much more specific to individual cases,” said Mayo.