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The Student-Run News Site of Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Keeping you WIRED in to all things Westside.

Westside Wired

The Student-Run News Site of Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Keeping you WIRED in to all things Westside.

Westside Wired

The Student-Run News Site of Westside High School in Omaha, Nebraska. Keeping you WIRED in to all things Westside.

Westside Wired

District sees success in new attendance plan


A plan was put in place last semester by administration in order to increase the steep decline in daily attendance. 

Since the pandemic, attendance has been at an all time low. The administration believes that students are better off inside of school, and they have the grades and test scores to prove it. In order to improve this increase in “chronic absenteeism,” Principal Jay Dostal and other administrators have set up a system called “Attendance Counts.”

“The whole point of it is that we know if students are in school, the likelihood of them having better academic achievements and better scores on the ACT is going to be significantly higher,” Dostal said.

Students, parents, and maybe even staff were skeptical of this plan, as it was focusing more on a privilege based model instead of consequence based. 

“We realize that detentions and suspensions and that sort of thing don’t resonate with students, so if we tie attendance to privileges like open campus, parking or dances, more students are likely to abide,” Dostal said.

Parents initially had many questions. They didn’t like the idea that all absences were equal. The Attendance Counts Frequently Asked Questions page has many questions ranging from, “Can I still call my student out of school?” to “My child has regular medical appointments during the school day. Can they attend these without the absences counting against them?”

The number one thing that Dostal wants to stress is that each situation is flexible. By providing a doctor’s note or simply communicating with the child’s administrator, each attendance concern can be worked out. 

“We provide leeway so that we can be flexible, really focusing on each individual student’s circumstances before we start going down the route of taking privileges away,” Dostal said. 

Many students, such as sophomore Jane Kubat, found this plan to be unnecessary and harsh. Not only that but after a semester, little progress was seen by the every day student. 

“I just don’t think it has had any impact,” Kubat said. “I, and others, have had absences in multiple classes and haven’t been reached out to about a plan.”

Dostal says there is a reason for this. Since the system has only been in progress for half a year, the administration has to deal with the most pressing matters first. 

“We have to focus our time, attention and resources on making sure that we address the student with more absences,” Dostal said. “It’s not like we’re ignoring anyone, we just have to look at who we’re going to prioritize because we have 2,100 students.”

Dostal recognizes that one plan isn’t going to work for every student. In some circumstances, whether privileges are taken away or not, it won’t matter. The plan needs to be individualized. 

“Ultimately we want to see growth,” Dostal said. “Let’s say you have a student who’s only here half the time, meaning they have a 50% absentee rate. After working with the family, the next quarter they go down to 40%. It’s still really high, but it’s growth. They’re making progress.”

Having so many students can also cause problems regarding the process of taking attendance. Right now, teachers manually mark each student as present or absent. If a student comes in late, sometimes teachers fail to mark them, causing a mix up in the attendance record. Administration acknowledges that modifications need to be made, and they are looking into ways to minimize the teacher error.

“Can we get to the point where students have to scan their ID when they come into a classroom so it takes attendance for the teachers?” Dostal said. “Then if you’re counted absent for a class the question is: When did you show up? Did you scan your ID? We’re just looking at different ways we can do that so we can be more exact.”

This plan will be continued into the spring semester and possibly the next few years. The statistics show that the absentee rate lowered drastically from last year. 

“We’re feeling really good about where we’re at,” Dostal said. “Our attendance rate has gone up. We’re seeing success.”

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