by Jaesuh Lee & Sarah Wei, News Editor, Managing Editor
graphic by Adrienne Lirio
In an August 16 email, Acting Principal Josepha Blocker announced the school’s new attendance policy, which will be implemented at the start of the school year.
The policy, developed by the Newton North and Newton South Attendance Committee, creates a separate column in students’ report cards and transcripts that will indicate if students have met each class’s attendance requirement with a Y (YES) or a N (NO).
A student’s attendance will be determined by term — five or fewer total absences and two or fewer unexcused absences per term earns a Y, while any more absences result in a N.
To receive full credit for a full-year course, students must earn a Y in three or more terms; for full credit in a semester course, students must earn a Y in at least one term; for a quarter course, they must earn a Y for that term. A failure to meet this requirement will lead to a partial or total loss of academic credit from the class.
Students with medical exemptions for lengthy illnesses may be excused from the attendance standard. As a new policy, a doctor’s note will be required to excuse a student from a single block in the day.
According to the Google document articulating the new policy, the administration’s main goals were making the mechanisms for enforcing attendance stricter and more consistent. Administrators did not respond to requests for comment.
Some South teachers, including science teacher David Beutel and math teacher Hayley Donati, said that the policy is justified and conducive to learning.
Beutel said that he hopes the new standards will reduce absences, improving learning conditions for every student in class.
“Hopefully it sends the message to students and families that attendance matters and it decreases absenteeism. Students missing class and walking in very late is a problem. If this policy reduces the amount of absences, my students will be better off,” he said.
“Students missing work and missing assessments is hard on me and hard on other students in the class, so ideally this will make all of our lives better.”
Donati said that the new policy is not much different than that of pre-pandemic years and that it is fair for the school to hold students accountable for their attendance.
For some students, however, like Senior senator Lily Paltrowitz, this policy is too strict. She said that although an attendance protocol is necessary, this ruling does not account for various reasons for absence.
“Due to the volume of work that students, especially upperclassmen, are receiving, many peers including myself have been forced to skip classes such as electives in order to catch up and study for exams or even take a mental health break during weeks with lots of exams,” she said. “There are many reasons why a student might need to skip a class that do not involve a doctor’s note.
Junior Ilan Kadish said that he thinks the policy is fair and will not affect him throughout the year..
Senior Ethan Pang said that although he does not like the decision, he understands the reasoning behind it.
“I would personally definitely prefer no attendance policy, but at the same time, I can understand it, and I know that it’s important to maintain discipline to prevent people from just skipping class,” he said.
South parent Ben Davies* said that he is conflicted about whether the policy is fair and wishes the administration provided clearer communication about the rationale behind the change.
“I agree that the people who are on time need to be rewarded in comparison to the people who are not, but I don’t know if this is too harsh of a method,” he said.
“They do not explain a reason for why they came up with that policy, which makes it hard for me to decide on whether it will be effective or not. I would like to know the problem that was occurring and the method that was used to come to this solution, as these numbers seem arbitrary to me.”
Senior Daniel Marshak said that judgment about the policy lies in the balance between the perspectives of the school and its students.
“I don’t think most students would think this would be a good change, because compared to last year, more students wouldn’t be able to skip class without facing consequences. [On the other hand], the administration really likes this policy because students will be punished for missing classes and overall attendance levels will rise,” he said.
“I think there are two ways that you can see the question — from the point of view of the students and the point of view of the administration.”
*Name changed to protect anonymity