As it is universally known, COVID-19 impacted the lives of many, which has impacted the attendance of several students. Because of this, Bonita Vista High (BVH) staff has begun to work to support students who are out due to absences related to sickness and other personal reasons, and prevent them being added to the choices list.
Attendance rates constantly change as a result of BVH administration taking precautionary measures. Anyone who experiences symptoms of any sickness is asked to remain at home in the case it is COVID-19. It has recently been noted that students have been more likely to stay at home when they experience any symptoms of sickness than remain at school.
“Post COVID-19, more students are absent because if anybody has even a sniffle, they’re going to stay home,” BVH Attendance Coordinator Antonio Gutierrez said. “It’s the responsibility of the parents to make sure that if your student is out, they need to email the school so we can clear those absences, if they are legal absences.”
It’s a lot about awareness–about making sure students know what the right move is,”
— BVH Attendance Coordinator Antonio Gutierrez
Gutierrez explained that it may be difficult to try and dictate whether a student is absent due to sickness or for other reasons such as ditching class. Complications often arise when students are added to the choices list due to being sick with absences that haven’t been cleared. Gutierrez comments that several students want their education, but there may be factors that may prevent them from doing so.
“It’s a lot about awareness–about making sure students know what the right move is because I do believe students want to be here. They want to get an education, they want to do what’s right,” Gutierrez said.
Although many students do miss school due to illness, there may be an alternative as to why they may be absent. Gutierrez explains that some students seem to have anxiety when they come to school or others may have individual issues which prevent them from going. In an effort to support these students, Gutierrez does weekly check-ins with those who have many absences.
“I try to meet with ten of those students a week to check in with their parents, to check in with the student and schedule meetings with them to encourage them to go to school. With some of the students, we identify some issues that we [explain to] counselors and to the AP’s (Assistant Principals),” Gutierrez said.
Post quarantine, schools have been progressively relaxing on forcing mask mandates, meaning that the spread of COVID-19 or the more recent spread of the flu variant RSV has been a factor to students absences as well. BVH Interim Principal Lee Romero comments on why students should stay home when feeling sick, as well as why their parents should make sure to excuse their absences in this situation.
“Right now it’s the flu [that’s more common and] a lot of kids are getting sick. I’ve noticed specifically at this school that kids want to be in school because they have a test or whatever, but when you come to school sick, it spreads to other kids,” Romero said. “I applaud them because they put school as of utmost importance, but it is getting people sick so please have your parents call in.”
The students that have lots of unexcused absences are the ones that tend to do poorly in classes according to Romero. He comments on the differences between students who attend classes regularly and those who are tardy and absent often, and how that might affect them in the future.
“I did a study when I was at Southwest High School; we [found] a correlation [between] kids with higher grades [being] at school more often,” Romero said, “I believe that as a middle or school student, it’s all about habits. If you’re one that creates the habit of being late or being absent as a part of your everyday norm, that is not a good habit in the workforce [for the future].”
It is ultimately in students’ and parents’ hands to clear absences and tardies with the attendance office. To clear absences a parent or guardian is able to send an email for their child’s expense to receive an excused absence. This is a crucial part in students being able to participate in extracurricular and fun events outside of the classroom such as homecoming since it will ensure that they are not on the choices list. AP Esther Wise comments that if students were to have any suggestions for other options to make up missed days and remove themselves from the choices list, they would be more than willing to help them out.
“It’s one of those things that if anybody has an idea or something to help students get off the choices list so they can participate in more fun events, then I’m definitely open to suggestions and supporting that student as much as we can,” Wise said.
As Wise clarifies, attending Saturday school may be an issue for some students who are busy with prior plans. For those who do attend Saturday school for four hours with a teacher, they have the opportunity to clear several absences and tardies. Wise explains how in decreasing the amount of students on the choices list, it serves as a way to show how students are representing BVH and the kind of school it is for the community.
“We want to encourage that students are doing the right thing and students are making the right choices,” Wise said. “We want to make sure that our students are representing us out there in the community appropriately.”