Definition of Absence
A school absence is generally defined as "not being physically present in the assigned school building," though there are exceptions to that rule.
Types of Absence
There are three types of recognized absences in the North Pocono School District: lawful absences, unlawful absences, and alternate location absences.
Lawful absences are absences that are (a) taken for a lawful reason and (b) documented by a properly signed excuse note. Lawful reasons per the Pennsylvania Department of Education and North Pocono School District policy include:
- Death in the immediate family
- Required court attendance (by the student)
- Exclusion from school (when state law precludes a student from attending school due to unmet requirements such as physical exams or immunizations)
- An unavoidable family emergency
- Illness, hospitalization, quarantine, recovery from accident or surgery, medical appointments, dental appointments
- Out-of-school suspension
- Impassable roads (determined by the assigned school bus' ability to transport the student; not determined by the student/parent ability to drive to school)
- Educational trip (only when pre-approved by the building principal)
- taken for some reason other than a lawful reason and/or
not documented by a properly signed excuse note. Please note that though a child may have a lawful reason for not attending school, his/her absence is unlawful until a properly signed note is received by the school.
Even with a properly signed excuse note, students who are absent from school for reasons other than the eight lawful reasons above have an unlawful absence. A small sample of unlawful excuses are: missing the bus, oversleeping, babysitting, shopping, visiting relatives, hunting, fishing, etc.
Alternate location absences occur when a student is not in their normally assigned classroom for part or all of a school day, but are in a location that has been either approved or documented by the building principal. These "absences" do not count towards a student's total absences and are not reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Education as an absence. In short, these are used for tracking purposes. These would include school sponsored activities, college visits, in-school suspension, etc. For a complete list, please see "Codes" in the menu above.
Properly Signed Excuse Notes
A properly signed excuse note is required in almost all cases of absence. It is not required when a student has been excluded, suspended out-of-school, suspended in-school, sent to a school-sponsored activity, or left at home because the roads were impassable by the bus, as the school administers these types of absences. For the same reason, a note is not required if the school nurse sends the student home as a result of illness.
Please note that there is no official, required form for an excuse note, though you may use forms if you wish. Any piece of paper with legible writing is fine. The content of the note is what is important. A properly signed note to document an absence must simply have the following:
- The child's name,
- The reason for absence,
- The date of the absence, and
- A signature of a parent, guardian, physician, or the building principal.
A parent's signature is valid on a signed excuse note until the child has a total of 10 days of absence for the school year. Once the child reaches that threshold, a parent's signature is no longer acceptable. After the 10 day threshold, the following is required:
- For illness (including hospitalization, quarantine, recovery from accident or surgery, or medical/dental appointments), a doctor's signature is required;
- For court appearances, a copy of a summons/subpoena is required;
- For bereavement, family emergencies, and trips, the signature of the building principal is required.
A properly signed excuse note must be submitted to the school within three (3) days of the student's absence.
Submitting an excuse note with a forged signature does not qualify as properly signed, but it does subject the student to disciplinary action.
Partial Absence (Late Arrival/Early Dismissal)
The number of minutes a child is absent in a given day determines how the absence is recorded and how the absence counts toward the student's absence day total. If the student is present for at least 60 minutes in a day, the student is recorded as present for the day. Late arrivals and early dismissals may have disciplinary consequences, however, depending on the reason for the late arrival/early dismissal. The student (or his/her parent) can face consequences for tardiness, truancy, class cuts, etc.
A student who arrives late is considered "tardy," and chronic tardiness is a major concern. Students may face disciplinary and academic consequences for being tardy to school. A properly signed excuse note with a lawful reason avoids the consequences of being tardy in the elementary and middle schools. However, in the high school only, a parent's signature is only sufficient only once annually. After that, a doctor's signature, a summons/subpoena, or the principal's signature is required.
As with absence and tardiness, early dismissal from school is strongly discouraged and is only permitted in emergencies. Parents are requested to arrange for medical appointments during school hours only when it is impossible to make appointments after school hours. Building administration reserves the right to limit the number of early dismissals permitted for a student. As with tardiness, early dismissals require a properly signed excuse note with a lawful reason to avoid disciplinary and academic consequences.
Any absence is subject to verification by the school district. In an attempt to deter students from not reporting to school and later submitting a forged excuse, the principal or his/her designee will, when resources permit, confirm the validity of absences by communicating with parents, particularly at the high school level. All schools employ robo-calling to notify parents of absence in the morning. In addition, recorded attendance is available to parents almost instantly on the Campus Parent Portal app and website. Parents are strongly encouraged to verify attendance daily.
If a student reaches three (3) days of unlawful absence, the building administration will send a warning letter. If a student reaches five (5) days of unlawful absence, the building administration will send another warning letter. If a student reaches ten (10) days of unlawful absence, the building administration will send a notice that truancy charges are being filed with the magistrate and that a summons to appear will follow. Should a student reach twenty-five (25) days of unlawful absence, the student may forfeit credit for the classes in which he/she is enrolled and may have to repeat the year.
If a student misses ten (10) consecutive days for unlawful reasons, that student may be subject to a pre-expulsion hearing. If the student is 17 years of age or older, expulsion will be recommended.
In cases where unlawful absences or unexcused absence exist, the school district is prepared to prosecute in compliance with the Pennsylvania Compulsory School Attendance Law. In a truancy hearing, parents/guardians are summoned to appear before a magisterial district justice to present their child’s case. In some cases, community service may be assigned to the student. In other cases, parenting classes, fines or an appearance in Lackawanna County Court may take place.
High school students who exceed ten (10) unexcused absences face additional penalties. If they have parking privileges, they will lose the privilege to park on school property during school hours. Seniors, in addition, lose senior privileges.
For the purpose of college selection, high school students are permitted three (3) days over the course of their high school career for college visits. College visits do not course toward absence day totals, provided a properly signed excuse note is submitted within the three (3) allotted days.
Career/Technical Center Attendance
If the Career Technical Center (CTC) is closed and North Pocono is open, the (CTC) student must attend North Pocono.
To avoid disruption of the instructional process, the school district prefers that vacations are taken when school is not in session. The North Pocono School District recognizes the following:
- Family trips are important;
- Sometimes trips cannot be taken when school is not in session; and
- Travel of an educational nature can expand and reinforce student learning.
When trips are educational in nature and do not compound an absenteeism problem, the building principal can, at his/her discretion, approve family or educational trips as a lawful absence. However, trips can only be recorded as a lawful absence when they are pre-approved by the building principal. If you are considering taking an educational trip during school time, please contact the main office of your student's building to request application materials. The completed application must be submitted to the principal no less than two weeks before the first date of absence.
Should the building principal approve an educational trip, the student is solely responsible for collecting assigned work from their teachers prior to the commencement of the trip. Students will be responsible to submit all completed work and to make-up missed assessments upon their return to school.
While excellent student attendance is something on which the district puts great emphasis, North Pocono also realizes that there are situations in which attendance is neither possible, nor recommended. Students who attend school when too ill to learn jeopardize their own health and often distract others in the learning environment. Students who attend school when contagious jeopardize the health of their teachers and fellow students. These are lose-lose propositions.
In addition, disqualifying students from an award because they experience an illness beyond their control seems contrary to common sense. Rewarding students for coming to school when ill to the detriment of themselves and others also seems contrary to common sense. For that reason, the North Pocono School District does not present awards for perfect attendance.