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Jackson R-2 Schools change attendance procedures

The Jackson R-2 School Board met June 12 and heard a presentation from Jackson High School Assistant Principal Travis Wilson about the District’s new attendance procedures for junior high and high school students.

The number of absences per semester that are allowed by the school without medical verification has been lowered from eight to six days. All absences excused or unexcused will count toward the six absences. Only school-sponsored activities, failure of the bus to run and school suspensions will not count toward the six days.

Wilson said lowering the allowed absences should get students to school more often. The policy change is targeting students who will take off as many days as is allowed. He added that when kids miss classes, they are more likely to do poorly academically.

“I see kids that miss a lot of school on a regular basis,” Wilson said. “They fall behind in the classroom, they get overwhelmed, they fail classes and that just snowballs throughout their career. Next thing you know, they are a senior and not on track to graduate.”

Wilson said lowering the number of days will make Jackson more in line with surrounding schools. Cape Central allows five days per semester and Poplar Bluff is at six days.

“When a kid gets into the habit of not being in school, it’s really easy to not go to school some more,” Wilson said.

Wilson added that the state judges the District on student attendance and expects 90 percent of students to be at class 90 percent of the time. If a student takes all eight days each semester, they are right at 90 percent.

The daily attendance rate for Jackson High School has been lower than the state average for the past nine years, with only 86 percent of students attending school 90 percent of the time or more.

The Missouri A+ college scholarship also required 95 percent attendance over four years of high school. Wilson said the A+ program has been one of the best ways to encourage students to come to school. If students use six days each semester, they will be attending 93 percent of the school year.

In other action:
• The Board certified a new salary schedule for the 2018-19 school year that addresses veteran teacher compensation, with higher percentage raises. Superintendant Dr. John Link said the District is having a hard time attracting veteran teachers from other districts because they are receiving higher salaries elsewhere.

Link said the District competes well for entry-level positions, but needed to elevate the offerings for teachers who have the most education and have been with the District the longest.

Director of Finance Terry Gibson said those teachers have received the smallest percentage of raises over time and have not been taken care of the same way. The minimum teacher raise will be three percent, with more experineced teachers receiving a four-and-a-half percent raise.

Gibson said that salary raises couldn’t be the highest piority this year with the District’s facility growth, but the changes were well received by teachers. It was also noted that the District is adding 24 new teachers this year.

• An exchange student sponsored by Rotary was approved by the Board. A 16-year-old student from Austria will attend Jackson High School next year. She will be considered a sophmore.

• Meal prices for next year were approved by the Board. For students, breakfast and lunch prices have remained the same. For adults, lunch prices have increased by 25 cents. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education recommended the increase for adult meal prices.

• The District approved the eligibility criteria for free and reduced price meals. The number of students who receive these lunches has stayed consistent, while the need has probably risen in the District. The Board and administrators stated that they would continue to try to encourage parents to submit the paperwork to qualify.

• Paving Pros in Oak Ridge received four paving bids from the District. The company, who has worked with the District in the past, will pave an access road at North Elementary, an outfield parking lot at the baseball field, a parking lot at Millersville and the entrance road and parking lot at Gordonville. All four projects are expected to be completed before the next school year starts.

• Quality Roofing Contractors of Southeast Missouri Inc. received a roofing bid for the ATI Building. The company gave references to the District and has worked at surrounding schools in the area.

• The District approved various food bids. Bimbo Bakeries was the only bidder for bread and bread products. Bimbo has been used by the District for the past nine years. Chester Dairy received the bid for milk and dairy products and Prairie Farms Dairy received the ice cream bid.

• The District approved various transportation bids. Co-Op Service Center Inc. received the gasoline and diesel fuel bid, and Richardson Tire Co. received the bid for tires. Morgan Distributing Inc. received the bid for oil, grease, transmission fluid and anti-freeze.

• The District approved running three bus routes for early childhood special education and three bus routes for K-12 speech and summer extended year services. These programs run in conjunction with summer school.

• Gibson was named the District’s Missouri Securities Investment Program representative. Gibson will receive MOSIP information and will be able to vote for Jackson R-2 by proxy if needed.

• Donna Tidwell was placed on the agenda for next month. Her public comments will be on school safety and grant funding from Southeast Missouri State University.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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