By Sarah Plummer
Nicholas County will be using its recently awarded West Virginia Department of Education Innovation Zone and Drop-Out Prevention Grant to help reduce issues of absenteeism and truancy throughout the county by offering Saturday class to make up missed days.
Nicholas County Attendance Director Gene Collins explained that the county has lowered its number of dropouts from 87 to 19 between 2007 and 2012.
“But I think our numbers can always improve. We are never going to be satisfied. We want to keep our truancy decreasing,” he said.
Through this new Attendance Recovery program, students who attend school on Saturdays will have two unexcused absences erased.
He explained that Attendance Recovery will be one of many dropout prevention tools and will be utilized by students of all ages.
Even though Nicholas County has successful yearly attendance and the dropout number is down, this past school year there was a rising trend of elementary students with between five and 10 unexcused absences.
The program, which targets even elementary students, will help nip this trend in the bud, he said.
The plan is to have two Saturday facilities, one on each side of the county, in Richwood and Summersville, that will have one teacher for elementary students and another for secondary students.
Collins anticipates students will have personalized learning opportunities on Saturdays. They will have the chance to make up assignments, work on ACT prep, participate in social service and community projects, or have counseling activities as needed.
Although participation in Attendance Recovery is voluntary, Collins explained that students may be ordered into the program by the circuit court if they are already being adjudicated for truancy.
Probation officers might also make participation in the program part of students’ probation requirements, he said.
Once up and running, the program is expected to operate on Saturdays during October, November, December, March, April and May, months identified as time periods when students more frequently accumulate unexcused absences that jeopardize their state-required attendance.
Collins explained that the Attendance Recovery program, like many programs awarded Innovation Zone Grants, requires a state code and county policy waiver to allow students to attend school on Saturday.
He said the county hopes the West Virginia Department of Education will be able to meet with the Legislature during an interim session, but Nicholas County may have to wait until the regular legislative session to begin the program.
Students would bring their lunch and parents would be required to provide transportation. The planning committee felt this places responsibility and accountability on parents and students in taking ownership for unexcused absences.
This program’s Leadership Team includes 28th Circuit Court Judge Gary Johnson, Nicholas County Prosecuting Attorney P.K. Milan, Nicholas County Juvenile Probation Officer Crystal Champ, a representative from West Virginia DHHR, and school district administrators.
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