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New rule: late to class is same as skipping

Front entrance to Bristol Eastern High School, Bristol, Connecticut. (Luke Ashworth/YJI)

BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Students who are five minutes late to a class next year will get the same penalty as those who skip it completely under a proposed change in the attendance policy at Bristol Eastern High School.
The new policy, still to be approved by the Board of Education, would mandate a five-point penalty from that quarter’s grade for any student who is five minutes late or more, according to Principal V. Everett Lyons.
The school’s current attendance policy deducts points every time a student skips class, is tardy, has an unexcused absence or doesn’t hand in make-up work. The points vary from one point for a tardy and two points for an unexcused absence to five points for skipping.
The points are deducted by each teacher per quarter from the student’s grade, but not all teachers follow the policy as written. Some teachers use detention as a punishment instead of docking points from a student’s grades.
A committee of teachers, the Student Governance Council and Lyons worked to put the new policy together, according to Lyons.
Math teacher Michael Beaudoin, a member of the teacher council reviewing the new policy, spoke to his classes about some of the upcoming changes.
Beaudoin said he hoped the new attendance rule would help students develop a work ethic for the future.
One of the biggest problems with the current policy is how much time should be given before a student is marked tardy.
“I believe a lot of teachers are too strict with being a minute late and giving a detention,” said freshman Matthew Fox. “Then there are others who don’t care and let students show up more than 10 minutes late without a detention.”
The new attendance policy will change the way students are marked tardy. During second, third and fourth periods, students will be given five minutes to get to class after the bell or they will be marked as skipping class.
Lyons said he hopes the new attendance policy will encourage students to get to class on time.
The proposed change is apparently part of a campaign to improve attendance problems at the school.
In a letter to parents earlier this school year, administrators stressed the district’s goal of 95 percent attendance for 95 percent of the student body.
To achieve that, students cannot miss more than nine days of school in a year.
Students who maintain perfect attendance are rewarded with certificates and free gifts, while students are punished for bad attendance through the points deducted off their grades.
In the end, the decision on the proposed change won’t be made at Eastern.
“The decision of the faculty will have to pass through the Board of Education,” Lyons said.
But even for conscientious students, will this five-minute block be enough time to hustle from one class to the next? Sprinting from one side of the building to the other — and stopping at a locker to get a book midway – may prove too much of a hurdle.

Sara Greene is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

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