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Lynn Public School students facing a stricter attendance policy

Superintendent of Lynn Schools Dr. Patrick Tutwiler. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN — If the School Committee approves a proposed change to the district’s attendance policy, students would be allowed fewer unexcused absences per quarter before automatically receiving a D- in their classes. But kids would have the opportunity to recover their original grade with better attendance the next quarter.

The panel’s policy subcommittee discussed proposed changes Tuesday night, and recommended the revised policy to the full committee. A vote is expected on May 30, but School Committee member Michael Satterwhite anticipated the changes would be approved, based on support showed this week.

Superintendent Dr. Patrick Tutwiler and his administration have proposed lowering the number of unexcused absences a student can have per term from seven to four before their grade is lowered. Tutwiler has said the proposed change is reflective of the district’s values around expecting students to come to school every day.

The current policy states that if a student has seven unexcused absences in a quarter, that would result in an automatic failing grade. A proposed change would allow just four unexcused absences, but a student wouldn’t fail their class, as was previously under discussion by administrators. Rather, it would result in an automatic D- if that student would have otherwise had a higher passing grade.

With an “earnback option” built into the proposed policy change, students could earn back their original grade by not exceeding three unexcused absences in the following quarter. But there’s no opportunity to recover an original grade for the fourth quarter in full year courses or the second quarter in half year courses.

Several committee members had voiced support over an earnback option over the past two months. Tutwiler had been hesitant, saying he liked the philosophy of allowing students to make up for a mistake, but felt it would be logistically challenging.

Tutwiler said on Wednesday he opted to support the earnback after determining new computer programming would alleviate the extra work guidance counselors would have otherwise incurred. But the software update, which would keep track of changed grades without requiring someone to manually input the change, will come at an expected cost of about $10,000, he said.

“Given that an algorithm can be programmed into our student management system that would allow for students who successfully meet the criteria to earn back the original grade without guidance counselor or teacher intervention, it seemed prudent to proceed,” Tutwiler said.

Committee members Brian Castellanos and Donna Coppola requested a gradual decrease in unexcused absences before a lowered grade, which would reduce from seven to six the first year, then to five and finally to four in subsequent years, but Tutwiler didn’t support the suggestion.

“We inquired about a possible credit recovery program to help balance the changes to the undocumented absences and were provided a compromise (on Tuesday night),” Satterwhite said. “The compromise was well thought out and is fair to students and should not be a burden on our educators and guidance counselors.”

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