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Nevis School Board addresses student absences

Improving attendance at Nevis School by focusing on interventions for students with excessive absences is a top priority for the district.

Superintendent Gregg Parks told the board Monday that the state has implemented a new attendance system and reporting that gives the district more information on absenteeism.

"The North Star Report revealed that we still have some work to do in the area of attendance," Parks told the Enterprise after the meeting. "We typically have a very high annual percentage of attendance. Last year, our annual attendance was 96.4 percent in the school district. However, we had 142 students miss more than 10 percent of the school year. This is an area we will focus a lot of interventions on this year."

Parks added, "Research consistently shows students who miss more than 10 percent of the school year develop gaps in learning and struggle academically and behaviorally."

The North Star Report measures consistent attendance or the number of students attending school 90 percent of the time or more. The high school was at 65.95 percent and elementary was at 83 percent for an average in the district of 74.45 percent. The state average attendance was 85.6 percent.

The Nevis district's goal is to decrease the number of students who are missing 17 days or more.

"With 171 student contact days, if you're missing 17 days that's 10 percent of them," Parks said. "That's critical. If you miss those building block areas, especially in something like algebra or geometry, when it comes time to take the test you're missing some key components."

Parks said too many absences also impact the ability for elementary student to advance in reading or math.

Principal Brian Michaelson said teachers discussed interventions for students who miss more than 17 days. "We are putting something about the importance of attendance in the next school newsletter," he said. "A lot of it is educating parents. If education isn't a priority at home, how are we going to get them here more? We will share data about the outcomes of missing school."

Other ideas brainstormed by school staff include pairing students who have absenteeism issues with a mentor, such as a high school student who is a good role model. "Maybe that kid will want to get up and come to school to visit with that older student," he said.

Board member Justin Isaacson asked about reasons for absenteeism.

"They're sick, parents call in, families take vacations," Parks said. "We're looking at the total excused and unexcused, because when you're gone, you're gone."

Nevis School's vision statement is to be "an educational system that promotes independent learning as a lifelong process, develops confident and critical thinkers, and helps students to maximize their potential as members of their vocation, community and family."

"Our vision statement drives everything we do," Parks said.

In other action the board:

• Approved student teacher Hannah DeLaHunt to be part of Scott Kramer's sixth grade classroom until November, when she will transfer to the Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) classroom.

• Heard the cash balance for July for the district was $1,855,220.

• Approved $332,806 in bill payments following an audit by board members Larry Smith and Gary Stennes.

• Approved updates to school board policies following the final reading. Changes included a new policy on cyber-bullying, in-service training for staff to help students identify violence and abuse in the community and teach conflict resolution, developing curriculum about preventing child sex abuse, and making electronic learning days a permanent part of school policies.

• Thanked Arvig Enterprises for their $1,137 donation through the INet program, which donates to the ECFE and community education programs.

• Discussed progress on the project to deal with rainwater. Concrete is in place and asphalt will be poured soon.

• Heard that the first student council meeting was held. "Use that forum and bring any issues that arise from the student body here," Smith told student representatives.

• Received a "thank you" from Parks for the welcome back lunch for school staff that was hosted by the board.

• Heard the Lindow scholarship golf fundraiser went well and raised close to $6,000.

• Heard from Michaelson that the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) team attended a one-day training in Duluth.

• Heard the first day of school for K-12 is Sept. 4 and preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds will begin Sept. 10-11.

• Approved the school district's goals for 2018-19.

• Heard a report from board member Justin Isaacson on the ALICE training he attended. He suggested local officers explore the Rapid Deployment, Awareness, Intervention, Decisiveness, EMS, Recovery (RAIDER) program designed by ALICE specifically for police.

• Heard that the district's audit report will be presented in November or December.

The next school board meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24 in the school media center.