Ontario North East School Board turns around absenteeism woes
Lydia Chubak , CTV Northern Ontario
Published Thursday, September 7, 2017 6:19PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, September 7, 2017 7:43PM EDT
Every day counts; that's the message the English public board in Timmins has been delivering and it appears to have worked.
Absenteeism at Ontario North East School Board schools dropped by 6% last year, according to board officials.
Four years ago, the board placed 7th worst in the province for chronic absenteeism. The absentee rate then climbed again the following year, when 26% of students were persistently absent. It's now down to 20%.
Officials define chronic absenteeism as when a student misses 18 days or more within the school calendar. That's close to two days a month.
"Some people think okay, that's not really a lot, but it is. That's when we start to see it affect EQAO (Education Quality and Accountability Office) scores and their participation in sports and extracurricular activities," said Denise Plante-Dupuis, Ontario Northeast School Board mental health leader.
"You start to get that disengagement piece after the 18 days. Around seven to eight days, that's kind of a warning sign."
To deal with its absenteeism issues, board officials came up with a tool kit to monitor absences.
Timmins High and Vocational School makes use of it and staff also sends home letters.
"We send those home every month, so the parents are aware of how many days the student has missed," said Greg Vincze, Timmins High principal.
"Even if it's for sports at the school, we put that out there. Every parent gets a copy and then we also call home and of course one of the other things we do in the school. We also try to ensure our classes are engaging and hands on for the kids."
Being engaged seems to be the key word.
"We're hoping that this year we can get more people engaged in the planning process to hopefully get their friends out to the activities as well," said Jaykob Walton, Timmins High student council member.
Officials said students need to feel they belong; that they're part of the classroom and part of the school community.
They said they're doing what they can to support students and the parents to make sure the absenteeism rate continues to decline.