Alma Waller

Alma Waller of Martinsville Middle School gives attendees of the Martinsville school board a warm-up before her presentation about the AVID program.

In Virginia, missing 10% of the school year is considered chronic absenteeism – but city schools don’t plan to wait that long to deal with the problem.

During Monday’s meeting of the Martinsville City School Board, Director of School Safety & Emergency Management T.J. Slaughter and Director of Pupil Personnel Felicia Preston presented a program about school attendance.

In Martinsville, 10% of the school year is 18 days, Preston said. A third-grader who misses that amount of time is not likely to master the skills needed to pass, and a freshman with that amount of absenteeism is likely to drop out.

Missing 10% is equal to missing two days a month, but even missing one day a month “can really put your child at risk for failing. Of course, accreditation comes into play,” she said.

Virginia has compulsory attendance, Slaughter said, and outlined Martinsville’s attendance reinforcement procedure.

After five missed days, the school or a designee makes an attendance plan. If another day is missed, parents will have to come in for a conference. On the seventh missed day, the student must see an attendance officer and set up another conference. If the matter does not improve, a petition will be issued to go to court.

A truancy intervention specialist or juvenile probation officer can work with families as needed, he said.

Students in seventh or eighth grade and older are old enough to get themselves up and ready for school, so they would face consequences such as losing student driving privileges or a placement in juvenile detention.

Parents of children who are younger would face misdemeanor charges, Slaughter said.

AVID initiative

Also during the meeting, personnel at each of the schools made presentations about the AVID initiative.

Martinsville High School guidance counselor Kristen Scott said AVID is a college-readiness program which “targets students in the middle … who could achieve higher than they are.”

Through AVID, they get support with note-taking and organization, and how to use their notes and other recourses to understand topics and study. Other support they receive includes weekly tutorials, support for the placement test needed for dual enrollment and guidance in filling college applications.

In Martinsville Middle School, 40 eighth-graders and 25 each of sixth and seventh grades are in the AVID program, Alma Waller said. Their activities include monthly writing prompts, a College & Career Day in which students dress representing the fields of their interest, and taking the PSAT.

Elementary-school staff said in their schools, AVID activities include keeping organized binders and dressing for College & Career Day.

Other topics presented during the meeting included band fundraisers and that school board chairman Donna Dillard had participated on an online webinar which was inspiring on the topic of healthy eating.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

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