Pell City School Superintendent Dr. James Martin pushed back against criticism of the district's new attendance policy Tuesday night. The policy is drawing attention from parents in and out of the Pell City area.
New guidelines went into effect in January that states students with any unexcused absences or more than three excused absences would not be allowed to go on any school field trips scheduled within nine weeks of the student missing class; additional absences could mean detention, suspension or court referral.
Martin said the policy is necessary because in the first nine weeks at Pell City High School there were 2,200 student absences in a 1,100-2,200 student school.
Martin reassured parents that principals are working with students who have had the flu and other illnesses to be able to go on field trips. However, he said it is hard for principals to work with students who have already missed 23 days of school this year.
“It is the law and we negate to think about that.” said Martin. “We want your kids in school, we love to have them here, and we need to have them here.”
Some people have been saying the new push for attendance is about money. Martin rejected that claim. “When students are enrolled, we get the money for students who are enrolled,” Martin said. Funding based on average daily attendance has not be done since 1995.
Martin thanked the parents, community, schools and administrators for their the work they have done because improvement is being seen. “It is all about expectations, we are going to get better and do better,” said Martin. “This is a great community and school system, we just all have to get on the same page and roll in the same direction.”
Some parents have expressed outraged at the new policy on social media, and are threatening to pull their children out of the system.
“That’s why parents are sending their kids to school sick bc they are scared of getting a truancy letter or having to go to court. That’s why so many flu outbreaks and strep, viruses are happening.” said one parent.
A post shared on a local Facebook group received 92 comments in a matter of two hours.