Attendance Matters – A Big Policy with Bigger Changes


The 2019-2020 school year brought many unexpected boulders in the path of learning, causing school accreditation ratings for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years to be waived as the Virginia Department of Education navigated through the shortcomings caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year marks the return of the accreditation ratings but excluded one of the biggest school-quality indicators: absenteeism.

Chronic absenteeism, as defined by the Virginia Department of Education (DOE), is “missing 10 percent or more of the school year, regardless of reason, and includes both excused and unexcused absences.”

As of March 2021, Newport News Public Schools had the second-highest percentage of “chronically absent” students in Hampton Roads, at 19 percent, a 4.2 percent increase from the 2018-2019 school year. This put NNPS as one of the 4 out of 7 school districts in Hampton Roads that reported increases in absenteeism before the pandemic arrived. Now, NNPS and Hampton Roads are at risk of future accreditation loss.

According to Virginia Law, “In the event of the loss of accreditation of a certified school, the council will move to revoke the school’s certificate to operate,” meaning they will also lose out on federal and state funding.

In an effort to reduce chronic absenteeism, Superintendent Dr. George Parker III updated the Newport News Public Schools’ attendance policy that has been in effect since the 9th of November, the beginning of the second marking period. The new procedures “give parents/guardians useful information about submitting documentation for student absences, define excused and unexcused absences, and outline the steps that will be taken when student absences become excessive or chronic,” but most students had no idea about the policy until it started affecting them.

With the new policy, the predominant effects on students are:

  • All tardies and absences must be excused by a note from a parent/guardian or by a doctor.
  • If a student accumulates 9 unexcused absences in a class during any given semester, they will automatically not receive higher than a grade of 59 for the class. A parent/guardian would then have to file for the exemption of one or more unexcused absences within 10 days of the conclusion of the semester.
  • Students must make up any missing work within 5 days of their return to school. Additional time may be granted by the teacher due to extenuating circumstances. A student will not be penalized for a teacher’s absence.
  • Students who are absent due to a suspension will have the option to access and complete graded work during and after the suspension.
  • When students cut class or cut school, teachers shall assign a failing grade for any work or test missed due to an absence that resulted from “class cutting and truancy.”
  • A student must be in attendance for a period of two hours to be counted as present for the school day.
  • Students with excessive tardies at the high school level may lose parking privileges or the possibility of obtaining parking passes in the future.

Hopefully, with these new measures in place, Menchville and all Newport News Public Schools will begin to see an uptick in attendance and retain their accreditation.