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DESE votes to extend alternate attendance rule

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Board of Education extended a rule change on its attendance policies through the remainder of the school year. 

The rule allows schools to count attendance for students learning through remote means or attending school through a blended schedule. Missouri’s education funding formula is heavily reliant on attendance numbers, a fact complicated by the unprecedented shift to alternate learning methods in response to COVID-19

The change was extended Tuesday to the end of the school year. 

“We have a large number of students across the state currently under quarantine, and using a consistent approach to their instruction makes a whole lot of sense,” said Dr. Kari Monsees in his presentation before the board Tuesday. “We certainly don’t want to limit the ability of schools to count attendance for providing those services to students.”

DESE Commissioner Dr. Margie Vandeven said the board would have additional conversations about attendance monitoring as the year progresses, noting some students have remained unaccounted for due to difficulties tracking attendance.

“The greater concern for us is what about those students who have not yet made contact with teachers or schools, and we’re raising that concern with superintendents right now,” she said. “Many are indicating that they’re beginning to go door-to-door trying to locate these children.”

Vandeven said enrollment numbers are due Oct. 31.    

“The biggest question is what can we do to make sure these children don’t fall behind in their learning, and that’s something we’re working on at a national and local level,” she said. 

The rule change, which was initially approved in July, altered the policies and standards on attendance records for the remainder of 2020, allowing them to remain compliant with the state’s funding rules while also practicing social distancing and exploring alternative learning options. The rule required schools to submit Alternative Method of Instruction (AMI) plans to the department and establish the attendance method the school would use. 

Schools can operate under blended, virtual, or in-seat education practices. The rule change allowed schools to report attendance for online classes as well as blended schedules where students come to school in shifts and learn remotely on other days.  

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.