The Lone Grove Public Schools’ Board of Education on Monday approved a new policy to address chronic absenteeism by offering students make-up days on some Saturdays. Superintendent Meri Jayne Miller said the policy stemmed from recent school report cards with dropping grades in this specific key area.

Miller has been critical of the report cards but calls the new policy a step in the right direction. “Although we may not agree with all the components, there are certain things that school districts need to do in order to continue to give our kids the very best possible education and make it work with the state department,” Miller told the board.

Lone Grove High School principal Chris Sudderth said he recently spoke with school principals at Plainview High School and Ardmore High School to develop solutions to his school’s dropping grade for chronic absenteeism. Lone Grove High School received a D-grade on its most recent school report card. The school had received a B-grade the year before.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Education, a student is considered chronically absent if they miss at least 10% of instructional class time per year, whether the absence is excused, unexcused, or due to suspension. Students not in class because of a school-related function or disability service are not considered absent.

“The Saturday school is just a last-ditch effort to those kids who may be one or two (days) over,” Sudderth said.

The rules that govern how chronic absenteeism is defined by OSDE are not related to a school’s attendance policy, so a student complying with local policy may still be considered chronically absent by OSDE. Sudderth said schools can petition the state if a student has an extenuating circumstance causing them to miss more than 10% of “seat time,” such as major surgery, but it is cumbersome and rarely done.

Sudderth said that administration will identify and recommend students for Saturday school. Students would not be able to use Saturday school to make up for simply skipping class, and Sudderth said that seat time would be reclaimed by the hour. He told the board that close to 10 students would likely benefit from the new offering each year and that classwork would still be emphasized during the four-hour day.

He is still working with teachers to staff the Saturday school and hopes to begin offering Saturday school every few weeks beginning next semester. Sudderth does not consider Saturday school to be the singular fix for chronic absenteeism and said he is exploring other options to improve opportunities for students.

“This is just another tool in our tool bag,” Sudderth said.