Managing Planned Absences
Parents planning holiday travel should be aware that the last day before winter break, December 15th, and the first day back, on January 2nd, are filled with important classes and activities for students in all three middle-school grades. We ask parents to make every effort to have their children in school for the entire day on both days.
If your holiday plans have already been made and require that students miss class time before or after the holidays, please contact your child’s dean as soon as possible. These absences will be “absences without extensions” except in rare circumstances and so require special planning with which your child’s dean can help you. We also ask parents to understand that it is not possible for teachers to recreate classroom experiences, prepare special packets of work, or re-teach lessons missed due to planned absences around the holidays.
We at school recognize that sometimes planned absences must happen — special family gatherings, important sporting competitions, and so on sometimes take precedence in a student’s life — and parents need to make those decisions. However, we ask that you let us know a week in advance of a planned absence by reaching out to your class dean. The process of planning, managing, and catching up after unavoidable absences is more smoothly accomplished when we all work together effectively. An e-mail or phone call from a parent — not the student himself in middle school — will start things off in the right direction.
When you let us know of your plans, the dean will pass along to the student a “Planned Absence Form” that s/he can use to help note assignments and classwork that need to be completed and will alert the appropriate HomeBase teacher. The HomeBase teacher will be available to coach the student on how to connect with his or her teachers and create a schedule for making up work — getting as much done before the absence as possible and making specific arrangements for work to be submitted electronically or upon the student’s return. If extensions are permitted, the HomeBase teacher can coach a student in how to ask for these. Now that the students are growing older, they are expected to take responsibility, with support from you and the HomeBase teacher, for finding out what they will be missing, asking any questions of the appropriate teachers and managing the completion and timely delivery of assignments and classwork.
Our first objective in creating attendance records and procedures is to ensure students’ safety by keeping track of your children when they are on campus. Our second objective is to try to reduce the burden that playing catch-up after planned absences places on both students and teachers. In middle school, we also want to help students learn how to take increasingly independent responsibility for effectively managing their learning and catch-up workload in the case of absence. Planning the timing of vacations and absences with the school calendar in mind, reaching out to your class dean a week ahead of a planned absence, and supporting your child in using the “Planned Absence Form” and other strategies for time and task management are ways families can support us in that final objective — and help your youngster use any necessary absences as learning opportunities rather than obstacles to learning.