Made-up Absences Rethought

June 16, 1991

A controversial proposal to bar students from making up work missed during college visits or family trips is on its way back to county school officials for rewriting.

The school board, which heard strongobjections May 23 from parents and students to those sections of a proposed attendance policy, asked the staff Thursday to rewrite it.

No deadline was set for the revised policy to be brought back to the board.

Board members lent their support to parents' and students' earlier arguments that students should be allowed to receive credit for making up work missed during college visits and family trips.

The proposed policy said, "It is expected that college visits willtake place on weekends." But students and parents countered that prospective freshmen cannot see classes in session or talk with financial aid officers on weekend visits.

Board vice chairman Dana F. Hanna, the father of three children, agreed that college visits should bean excused absence. He suggested wiping out the distinction between legal and illegal absences. If a student is not considered absent when he or she is on a band trip to Florida, maybe students on excused absences could be counted as present, Hanna said.

That would help Howard County meet the Maryland School Performance Program 94 percent "satisfactory" attendance rating for students in grades 7 through 12,he added.

"Why, if I have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity next week to go to Hamburg, Germany, why should my children be counted as absent?" Hanna said, adding that the trips should have educational value. "We're not talking a ski trip to Aspen that is a regular event each year."

Several board members reversed their earlier opposition to a State Board of Education decision that required local school systems to allow suspended students to make up missed class work for credit.

The provision for suspended students to make up missed work will be part of the attendance policy the board adopts.

Chairman Deborah D. Kendig said the reversal came after the board heard several recent suspension appeals "where the ability to make up work was crucial to the kids."

Board member Karen B. Campbell said students shouldn't be denied chances to make up missed work. She said students might be given extra assignments such as educational essays about family travel.

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