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Official: Schools struggling with student, teacher absences

November 16, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia state superintendent of schools says schools are struggling with students and teachers being chronically absent.

News outlets report Superintendent Steven Paine delivered a presentation on the issue Thursday to the state Board of Education. He said 54,000 students missed more than 18 days of school last year, falling short of federal standards that require students to attend 90 percent of instructional days.

“That is a problem. That is a serious problem,” Paine told board members. “We provide far too many excuses for being absent from school. We have circumstances where a parent wants to bring a student to school a week late for summer vacation. Wait a minute, that’s not acceptable. I know it puts a burden on districts to say no to those parents, but I think it’s time we do it.”

He says teacher attendance needs attention too. He says teacher absences are financially straining school districts, many of which have seen expenses triple for substitute teachers.

“We have teachers whose attendance rates are not much better than the students. To me, that is totally unacceptable,” Paine said.

He says a task force is set to be created later this year to look into the root causes of absenteeism.

“I think it’s incumbent on us to take away a lot of the reasons we excuse absences at this point,” Paine said. “I think we are masking a problem that exists and we need to make sure the federal definition of what it means for a student to be absent is more closely related to our state definition of what it means for a student to be absent.”

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