Fort Wayne Community Schools will introduce revamped attendance procedures next week for remote learners, district leaders said during a virtual update Tuesday.
Changes will address inconsistent attendance practices and a lack of engagement among middle and high schoolers during the first nine weeks of the year. The second quarter begins Monday.
“Parents need to understand this is school, and students have an obligation to show up when the class is taking place,” said D. Faye Williams-Robbins, chief of student, family and community engagement.
Williams-Robbins was among three district administrators who joined Superintendent Mark Daniel in his monthly Facebook Live session.
About 38% of middle school and 40% of high school students are learning entirely remotely this semester, but even those attending classes in-person have some remote learning days because of the blended learning model this year.
Teachers have used different tools to take remote attendance, including Google Docs and Zoom, an inconsistency that will be resolved Monday, Williams-Robbins said. New procedures also will be implemented so teachers can more easily change a student from absent to tardy.
Another change includes taking attendance every class period, Williams-Robbins said. During the first quarter, she said, some students would log off after getting recorded as present.
Neither Williams-Robbins nor Daniel quantified first-quarter absenteeism rates, but the superintendent described the consequences of routinely skipping remote lessons.
“Students may not have learned for not just nine weeks but for a semester, and if this continues – the pandemic continues – you could look at an entire year,” Daniel said. “That could place students in – each and every one of our students that are perhaps not engaged – in a very vulnerable position.”
A Facebook user asked about the possibility of giving middle and high school students the option to attend class in person five days a week now that Indiana has moved to Stage 5 of its reopening plan.
The topic has been discussed, Daniel said, but FWCS plans to use blended learning for grades 6-12 through the first semester. However, he added, students unsuccessful in the remote learning environment will be told to return to school.
Remote and blended learning have drastically reduced the number of students inside the middle and high schools daily, Daniel said, so safe distancing isn't a problem – student engagement is.
“And we will find a solution to that,” Daniel said, “but it's only if we have partners, like you parents at home.”
Williams-Robbins encouraged those with attendance concerns to call the Family and Community Engagement Center at 260-467-2120 and ask for Tim Captain.
Daniel expects decisions about second semester will be made in November.
“We will watch the (COVID-19) case numbers very closely,” he said, “and make decisions with the safety of our students and staff in mind.”