RPS relaxes absence policy to help students who miss class for COVID-19

Richmond

Empty classroom (Getty)

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Public Schools (RPS) is updating its attendance policy to account for students who may miss class for extended periods of time due to contracting COVID-19 or experiencing symptoms.

The school division’s former attendance policy states that any student who is absent for 18 days, which is 10% of the academic year, will not receive course credit (at the high school level) and may be subject to retention (at the middle and elementary school level). The policy counts all absences except for suspensions toward this number.

At the last RPS School Board meeting, on Sept. 20, the administration requested a full waiver of this policy. However, several Board members expressed concern that doing so would undermine the school division’s efforts to improve attendance.

At that same meeting, it was revealed that nearly 10% of RPS’ students are “no-shows” for the 2021-22 academic year — 2,395 students have not shown up to class at all for the current school year, according to Chief Engagement Officer Shade Thomas Harris.

With this in mind, the administration updated its attendance proposal to exclude excused absences from the count of 18 days. This would ensure that days when students are ill would not count against them.

The board voted unanimously to approve that change on Monday night.

The process for students to get their absence excused will remain the same.

At the meeting, school leaders explained that students in quarantine are marked as either quarantine present when engaging virtually, quarantine absent excused when they are ill and quarantine absent unexcused when they are not ill or engaging.

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