Wright City R-II school officials in Missouri are looking for ways to improve student attendance across the district.
The Wright City R-II Board of Education recently discussed the district’s attendance through November, with three out of four schools in the district sitting at attendance under 85 percent as of the end of November.
The board received their monthly Continuous School Improvement Plan reports at the December Board of Education meeting.
The district’s overall attendance was just under 83.8 percent for the entire district.
West Elementary’s attendance was at over 90 percent. The East Elementary attendance was just under 85 percent and Wright City Middle School’s attendance was at just over 80 percent. The Wright City High School attendance was around 79.7 percent.
“Besides West, none of this is good,” Wright City R-II Board Member Kyle Lewis said. “I know that we’re struggling as a district. I recognize it’s only four CSIP points. But you look at all the districts around us, we are underperforming. So I don’t know if we have an opportunity to readjust truancy with the new prosecuting attorney and now new judges in the county, we can strengthen these relationships because this is bad.”
Wright City R-II Superintendent Dr. Chris Berger said it was a “great point on the appointments.” He said they can reach out to the new appointments and try to make up some ground.
Board Vice President Erin Williams questioned the feasibility of meeting the state’s goal of 90 percent of district students attending school 90 percent of the time.
“I just wonder what the reality is of the districts in the state meeting that,” Williams said.
“Because I have not heard from any who are knocking attendance out of the ballpark. Everybody’s terrible with attendance.”
Board Treasurer Mary Groeper stressed the focus since the emergence of COVID-19 a few years ago on discouraging students to come to school when they are sick. There is a big difference between students who do not come to school because they are sick versus students who are truant when absent from school.
“There are a lot of different reasons for that. And there are a lot of home situations for that too,” Wright City High School Principal Matt Brooks said. “I see so many of them that are directly related to that. And I know you could say that we have that at other buildings, right? But I think sometimes those concerns when you’re talking about a teenage student are exasperated.”
Wright City Assistant Superintendent Doug Smith noted truancy issues require local resources in counties and municipalities to work with school districts. He does not think other school districts with higher attendance are doing anything different from the Wright City R-II school district to incentivize student attendance.
“Year in and year out, we’re looking at two of the bottom 20 percent of attendance districts right here next to each other,” Smith said. “So there’s something happening beyond what’s just happening with the education.”
Lewis conceded the district cannot force parents to take their children to school if they do not see the value in it or have other priorities. He stressed this is why they need to strengthen their partnership with those entities in the community that can help the school district.