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Attendance policy changes for excusing student absences

Effective January 28, 2019, the Mercer Island School District’s administrative policy and procedure for excusing student absences will be significantly changed. Under the revised Policy 3122 and Procedure 3122, parents or guardians will now have five (5) days to excuse a student’s absence from school. Under the current policy and procedure, a parent or guardian has an undefined amount of time to excuse an absence. 

This change to administrative district policy and procedure is being made for several reasons. First and foremost, these policy and procedural changes support the District’s ongoing concerted effort to improve student attendance. Previously, the District shared Washington state and District data about absentee rates and the correlation attendance in school has with successful school outcomes. The decision to limit the time students have to excuse an absence places a higher priority on providing reasons for a student’s absence and encourages more proactive communication between families and schools.

Another reason for the change is to curtail a problem at the high school with “blanket” excusals at the end of the semester. The privilege to park a student vehicle at Mercer Island High School is predicated on a number of factors, one of which is attendance. Mercer Island High School has noticed a trend whereby parents and guardians are excusing all unexcused absences dating back weeks and months so that students can still have a parking space at school. This practice undermines the intent behind trying to promote and incentivize school attendance.

The process for excusing student absences will not change. The schools continue to ask that parents and guardians provide advanced notice (email, phone call, signed note) for prearranged absences. This helps the attendance staff with managing workflow and tracking students. Additionally, for unexpected absence due to illness and emergencies, please continue excusing these absences by emailing, calling or sending in signed notes. Again, parents and guardians will have five (5) days from when the student returns to notify the school. However, to the extent possible, it is always most helpful to the school teams if the excuse can be provided on the day of the absence.

We continue to focus on student attendance because we want all of our students to benefit from the classroom experience each and every school day. Please contact your child’s school or Assistant Superintendent Fred Rundle (206-236-3330)  with any questions.