Early dismissal poses problems

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 14, 2007

WINDSOR – A growing problem has been identified in the Bertie County School system.

That problem isn’t something one would normally associate with a school system; rather, the blame apparently lies with the parents.

Carol Atkins, the Executive Director of Educational Programs, came before the Bertie Board of Education during their regular meeting Tuesday night to discuss the growing epidemic.

&uot;The principals have espoused a growing concern on students signing out early and missing school… for reasons that are not excusable,&uot; Atkins told the board.

Some of those reasons include parents signing their children out to go shopping, go out of town, visit relatives who are in town and non-emergency dental or medical appointments.

Many parents simply are in town and decide to stop in to pick up the child early for no apparent reason, Atkins revealed.

She also gave the board some preliminary numbers that reveal signing out early is a problem that is on the rise.

Most dramatically, the numbers from Bertie High School show just how big of a problem it is.

In September, BHS registered 447 early sign-outs, a number that increased to 554 during the month of October.

Also in October, Bertie Academy documented 76 early sign-outs, a figure that is quite high considering the school’s population is only 40 students.

Aulander Elementary reported 76 students leaving early during October and Bertie’s STEM had 22 during the same time frame, out of a student population of just 60.

Numbers from other schools are not available at this time.

&uot;There’s a growing tendency here and it needs to be addressed before it grows any larger,&uot; Atkins stressed.

She continued, &uot;We need people to understand the value of the whole educational day. These parents who are signing their children out of school early are detracting from that.&uot;

Many principals of schools in the county are asking the board to be aware that it is a problem and urging board members to find a solution.

&uot;We would like to stand together as a district instead of having differing policies for every school,&uot; Atkins also stated.

Board member Alton Parker remarked, &uot;It definitely seems to be a problem; those figures are eye-opening, especially at the high school.&uot;

Another board member, Emma Johnson, commented, &uot;It would be nice to get the principals to tell us how they’d like it done, to get some feedback from them.&uot;

Atkins suggested looking at what other school districts have successfully done. According to Atkins, some school districts have implemented a strict &uot;no early dismissal&uot; policy, which would mean no student can leave early unless they have a medical reason to do so and a doctor’s note to prove it.

Board member Gloria Lee said that Atkins’ concerns had made her rethink her own practices in picking up her family members early from school.

&uot;After I read your letter, I went and rescheduled my niece’s dentist appointment. I felt like I would have been cheating her out of the opportunity to learn if I had picked her up early,&uot; Lee said.

She continued, &uot;The main thing is we need to make parents more aware of just how important those last few minutes of the school day are.&uot;

In her letter to the board, Atkins explained the issue, &uot;When students leave prior to the end of the school day, they miss out on vital classroom instructional time, closure for the day’s lessons, and assignments for homework. Although they can make up work missed, they cannot possibly regain the actual instruction that was provided.&uot;

The letter continued, &uot;Nor can they regain the opportunity to participate in classroom discussions and guided practices that enable students to develop and demonstrate their understanding of a concept before they are asked to work independently. Having a student sign out early also disrupts the flow of the lesson for the entire class.&uot;

Atkins stressed that this last part was a major factor in the problem. She revealed that on several occasions in recent weeks, she had occasion to be present at Bertie Middle School around 2:30 p.m., about 30 minutes before the dismissal of school for the day.

&uot;There are cars lined up way back outside, and parents congregated in the lobby requesting their child come to the front desk to be signed out early,&uot; Atkins said.

She continued, &uot;What these parents don’t realize is that when you call little Johnny to come out of class, that interrupts the whole rest of the class, taking away from their learning time as well as his.&uot;

The board took no action on the matter, but members said they would think about potential solutions. Further discussion was tabled for a future meeting.