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Dolores school board hears about updated attendance data

At their monthly board meeting, the Board heard from MTSS about school attendance. (Emily Rice/The Journal)
Attendance has improved, but the board acknowledges room for improvement

The Dolores RE-4A school district school board heard about improvements in attendance and the substitute teacher shortage’s affect on district staff, among other items.

Katherine Freeman, coordinator of Multi-Tiered System of Support’s Grant, presented updated attendance numbers to the board on Thursday.

The district named attendance as its district focus last spring, after staggering numbers were reported.

Across the elementary and secondary schools, more than 40% of students were chronically absent, missing 10% of school last year. Data also showed that more than 80% of high school students who were failing their classes were chronically absent.

More than half of high school students were chronically absent last year, but that number is down to 46%. One in five high school students are being categorized as extremely chronically absent, missing more than 20% of school.

The middle school’s chronic absenteeism rate is 38%, which is a decrease of 10 percentage points. The elementary school’s absenteeism rate is 20%, which is a 18% decrease.

These new numbers for the secondary schools are based on attendance tracked this semester, from Jan. 9 through March 11. The elementary school’s numbers show data from August through February.

The next steps to keep improving attendance include improving action plans and accountability, engaging families and addressing the substitute teacher shortage.

According to Freeman, it is difficult for teachers to find the time to actively tackle attendance with the substitute teacher shortage. Many teachers have lost their planning periods in the school day, as there is no extra help. In total, 132 planning periods have been lost.

Freeman told the board that the shortage, which is part of the larger issue of the district’s challenge of “attracting and retaining qualified teachers,” is threatening teachers’ efforts to help fight absenteeism and support the district’s other proposed initiatives.

Superintendent Reece Blincoe congratulated teachers and staff for their efforts in helping improving attendance, adding there’s still “a long way to go.”

Update in BOCES, hiring and student projects

Clay Tallmadge informed the board that Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 was denied its appeal to the 2023 BOCES decision, which prevented them from becoming their own administrative unit.

He said remediation had been proposed for Montezuma-Cortez and BOCES to help re-stabilize their relationship and work on the issues that prompted Montezuma-Cortez to want to leave in the first place.

New staff were approved for hire, and the board donated $1,500 to Operation Graduation.

They also approved the 2024-25 school calendar.

The board also heard from two Dolores eighth grade students who placed first and third in an essay contest. Another Dolores student placed second, but was unable to attend the meeting.

The essays highlighted why the Bill of Rights was important to them and to the United States. All three of the essays were sent on to the next round, and they are currently awaiting their results.

Emily Christensen, secretary of Dolores’ Operation Graduation, gave the board an update on fundraisers for the senior class, including the sold-out Crumbl Cookies fundraiser and the current flamingo fundraiser. Of the $15,000 goal, $11,000 has been raised.

Christensen asked that the board consider donating to the fundraisers, which the board said they would address later on in the meeting.

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