High school students all over the Valley have a three-day weekend coming up. But East Valley High School students have a really sweet deal, and it’s new this year. They get Friday and Monday off, for a four-day weekend.
The change reflects an effort by East Valley officials to avoid staggering absentee rates at the high school on staff development days.
Here’s how it works: Friday is a statewide curriculum day. East Valley’s first staff development day comes on Monday.
The state requires that each school district devote six half-days a year to teacher training. East Valley is combining those, into three full days.
At East Valley High, “I would say probably one-third of our student body and maybe more would be absent,” said Ray Stookey, assistant principal. “It became unmanageable to try and track them.”
Superintendent Chuck Stocker pegged the absentee rate even higher, at close to 50 percent.
“More kids made poor choices on those days. More kids used alcohol before they came in on those days,” Stookey said.
“I think we’d have been fine with the opportunity to have early release. It’s just too hard to get the kids up and going in another direction and then expect them all to make it in,” said Jeff Miller, EV principal.
Officials at other Valley high schools said they don’t see the same severe problem on early release or late arrival days.
At Central Valley High School, absentee rates on those days usually bounce up from 4 to 6 percent. The school alternates between morning or afternoon schedules on those staff development days.
At University High School, absentee rates stay level at about 4 percent. But attendance secretary Rose Lamb said that large numbers of students are tardy for a single class, or leave halfway through the day. U-Hi runs classes on an abbreviated 20-minute schedule on staff development days.
West Valley High School reports no change in absentee patterns on staff development days.
East Valley’s change of schedule on staff-development days required permission from the state Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
“We heard at various times from parents, ‘We understand the need (for training time). But isn’t there a better way?”’ Stocker said.
“This way we don’t set kids up to make poor decisions,” Stookey said.