Day to take kids to work leaves an empty feeling at some area schools

Missing class with parents has supporters, opponents

April 28, 2000|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Attendance at some county schools took a noticeable downturn yesterday -- a yearly occurrence on the fourth Thursday in April known as "Take Our Daughters to Work Day."

Begun in 1993 by the Ms. Foundation to introduce girls to the world of work, the event is no longer universally gender-specific, evolving over the years at some workplaces into a "Take Your Child to Work Day" and, for many children, an unofficial school holiday.

Lindale-Brooklyn Park Middle School reported a 21 percent absentee rate, and at George Fox Middle School in Pasadena, 19 percent of the pupils were absent.

"This happens every year, but my attendance clerk said that there's more out this year than ever," said Kevin Dennehy, principal at George Fox, which has an enrollment of 850.

Typically, daily absentee rates are below 10 percent, school officials said.

From an educator's perspective, Dennehy said, he's not a big supporter of the day. "Kids are missing work and missing time out of the class," he said. "We want kids in school the entire 180 days that we have them."

Dennehy said he would prefer to see the event scheduled during the summer.

But organizers at Ms. Foundation -- still the event's sponsor -- said scheduling the event outside of the school year would defeat its purpose.

"The hope is that the girls will take what they learn on Thursday and apply it in the classroom on Friday," said Kelly Parisi, a foundation spokeswoman. Having the event while students are in school allows workplaces to "adopt" classrooms of girls, she said.

Officials at some county elementary schools said yesterday's attendance figures were normal, with one or two pupils out for "Take Our Daughters to Work Day." At other county schools, secretaries said attendance data was confidential and could not be divulged.

Administrators at the school system's central office in Annapolis said that they do not have access to school absentee rates on a systemwide basis.

"If schools have a large number of students out, they call into the central office to let us know," said Michael Walsh, a county schools spokesman.

Nancy Mann, associate superintendent for instruction, said it's up to each principal to determine how to handle absences for "Take Our Daughters to Work Day."

Dennehy's policy is to treat absences related to the event like those for a field trip, provided that a parent gives advance notice. He said he might excuse the absence if the child brings in a note today from the workplace visited.

"What I'm trying to do is work with the parents who are trying to do well by their kids," Dennehy said.

He said that middle school pupils with more than three unexcused absences in a marking period could receive a failing grade.

Administrators at George Fox said they heard from about six parents who informed them that their children would miss school for the workplace event.

Assistant Principal John Shirko said the absences increased according to grade level -- sixth grade with the fewest, eighth grade with the most. "It's almost as if the kids said, `Hey this is a good reason to be home,' " Shirko said.

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