Pusd Combats Unexcused Tardiness, Absences

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Payson Unified School District has made changes to its student absentee and tardy reporting documentation to meet Arizona statutes and combat tardiness districtwide.

Arizona law requires that children between the ages of six and 16 attend school during the hours it is in session.

"Tardiness is a problem," said Payson Elementary school principal Will Dunman.

"I had a student last year who was late at least a half an hour every day," Dunman said. "That made it difficult for the child to learn. Math was taught the child's first hour of class and he was performing at a D and F level."

So, in an effort to cut down on unexcused student tardiness and absences PUSD requires students bring a note, not from the parent, but from the doctor, dentist, counselor or court upon return to school.

The district has provided business offices in Payson with a standardized form to use for the student if they wish. Parents can also obtain the form from school offices when they check their child out of school.

"We hope the form will make it easier for parents and doctors," said PUSD superintendent Sue Myers. "Because it is already in some doctor's computers it can be signed at the time of the appointment."

If a family experiences an emergency, the parent needs to meet with the school principal to let him or her know what is going on in order for the absence or tardy to be excused Dunman said.

"We aren't going to be asking for a death certificate or anything like that," Dunman said.

Religious holidays are approved, with a parent note, preferably before the holiday.

Absences are considered excessive when the number of days absent exceeds 10 percent of the number of required attendance days.

"At that point we have the opportunity to file truancy papers on that child," Dunman said.

In the elementary schools, if a student is 15 or more minutes late five times and the tardy is unexcused the tardy counts as one absence.

Leaving a half an hour before school ends, if unexcused, also counts as a tardy.

After five absences the student can be referred to juvenile probation department for truancy intervention.

Will unexcused tardiness and absences overload the system?

"We are going to see," Dunman said. "We have been working with the County Attorney's office and they are on board with the procedures."

School handbooks have the exact policy on student attendance.

"We need students in school if we are going to teach them," Myers said.

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