Shawnee Superintendent Dr. April Grace has joined a list of more than 800 superintendents nationwide who have pledged to prioritize student attendance in the 2019-2020 school year. 

By signing the pledge, Grace has made a commitment for Shawnee Public Schools to

make school attendance a top priority,

engage families and community members to help reduce chronic absenteeism,

identify when intervention is necessary for students in danger of being chronically absent.

"We know that daily school attendance can be a challenge for some of our families, especially when caregivers are working multiple jobs or have transportation obstacles," Grace said. "By signing this Superintendents Call to Action pledge, I am committing to working with our families to make attendance a top priority."

"It will take all of us together as a community to make sure our students are in class every day so they do not miss valuable instruction."

The winter months offer different challenges to school attendance, from frigid temperatures to an increase in illnesses, Grace said. Families are encouraged to make sure children have warm coats, gloves and hats, and to notify a school counselor or other school personnel if winter outerwear is difficult to obtain, she said.

"We are also working on developing inclement weather bus routes which would add a few key stops in what would normally be our walking boundaries. These routes would help ensure students attend school who have no other transportation options on days when it could be challenging to walk." 

The district's partnership with TEAM Clinics is another way to help students get the health care they need while at school in a short time frame and without missing class unnecessarily, she said. Teaching children proper hand-washing techniques can also help students stay healthy, Grace added. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 8 million students in the nation were chronically absent in the 2015-2016 school year. Chronically absent is defined as missing 10 percent of the school year in excused and unexcused absences and suspensions. Too many absences in the early grades can leave children unable to master reading by the end of third grade, a key indicator of school success. By middle and high school, chronic absence becomes a red flag that a student may not graduate from high school.