“Get to class!”

BVH administration combats low attendance and high tardy rates

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Eiffel Sunga

Students who were not in class by the fifth period late bell on Feb. 11 were gathered together and sent to the front office by Attendance Coordinator Antonio Gutierrez. Gutierrez checked each students’ attendance and assigned Saturday school to those with eight or more tardies.

Elie Cajes, Features Copy Editor

In the second semester of the 2021-2022 school year, irregular attendance has become a noticeable issue at Bonita Vista High (BVH) alongside a rise in student tardiness. The administration has taken action by sending students who are found roaming around in the halls during class to the attendance office, set reminders for students to be in class and on time from the overhead speakers and have staff members walk the halls during passing periods to make sure students get to class on time. 

In 2019, BVH had an average student attendance of 97 percent, ranking them tenth in attendance within Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD). To improve attendance rates, Antonio Gutierrez was hired as the official Attendance Coordinator. His position focuses on identifying the students who were not attending school, contacting their legal guardians and ensuring they attend Saturday school, a support system that allows students to catch up on missing assignments.  

“[We needed to have] a better communication system [for] the families of students so there is a clear understanding of what the rules and responsibilities for attendances [are],” Gutierrez said.

In 2020, BVH rose higher in the ranks of attendance within SUHSD. During the first year of the pandemic, BVH had an overall attendance rate of 97.82 percent. However, according to Gutierrez, the 2020-2021 school year was interesting in terms of how attendance data was collected. 

“With that one [2020-2021 school year], as long as students checked in from their laptops from home, [it counted towards] attendance. We didn’t have that much of a dip in the daily attendance because students, to varying degrees, were still checking in and getting some work [done],” Gutierrez said.

On the other hand, the transition into the 2021-2022 school year not only showed a decrease in student attendance at BVH but also district wide. Gutierrez explains that the pandemic was one of the biggest factors in this decline. Despite this, Attendance Overseer and Assistant Principal Esther Wise believes that the change in attendance rates show that the administration is in constant communication with students’ guardians.

“We understand that students miss school for various reasons. It’s understood that there’s going to be a different rate of attendance currently than we’ve had in the past. We’re trying to send a message [to] all of our families [that] if a student doesn’t feel well keep them home, don’t send them to school,” Wise said.

With the surges of the Delta and Omicron variant, many students were absent upon returning from winter break. Even though COVID-19 cases have dropped, Gutierrez still holds a few concerns.

“Now that we’re getting back to normal, how can we [BVH staff] ensure that students continue to come back to school consistently? How can we encourage students to make sure they are on time for their classes?” Gutierrez said. 

Senior Emily Ingco is one of many students who struggle to get to class on time. Ingco expresses that she arrives a bit later than her peers and has to walk across the campus for her first class. She believes that students may arrive late to class because they are not able to get to school on time or socialize with friends.”

“I do feel that [sending students to the attendance office is] beneficial because it pushes students to get to class on time. However, I don’t think they should hand out the tardy slips right when the bell rings. I believe three or so minutes after the bell rings would be good,” Ingco said. 

I am trying to reset the norm to be in class on time.”

— Attendance Coordinator Antonio Gutierrez

Alongside sending tardy students to the main office, Wise explains that the administration is alerting students’ guardians about their absences and tardies through automated systems. The only way to clear these unexcused absences and tardies is by attending Saturday school. In taking these measures, Gutierrez hopes to return to previous attendance rates, when more students were in class and on time. 

“What I’m trying to do [as the Attendance Coordinator] is be a reminder. I am trying to reset the norm to be in class on time,” Gutierrez said.