Franklin Regional officials examine attendance policies in light of new education model

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Franklin Regional officials are taking a deeper look at how excused absences will be recorded amid the coronavirus pandemic, after receiving several comments and questions from parents during the first weeks of school.

The district is asking parents to keep children home if they exhibit any of the 13 general symptoms associated with covid-19.

“However, if a parent elects to keep their child home, and the child logs in to their classes throughout the day, they are still counted as absent, even though they are participating in their classes,” parent Christy Manzewitsch wrote in an email included in the public comments from Monday’s school board meeting.

Parent Theresa Gutierrez opted to keep her son home due to an allergy flare-up, “because I did not want him in a mask all day. It would have been miserable,” she said. “He was in every class the entire day from home and was marked absent.”

New Assistant Superintendent Robin Pynos said it’s something district officials need to sort through.

“We are definitely looking into that policy,” Pynos said. “As far as what the (state) Department of Education requirements are, we haven’t been given a lot of guidance about that, but if there’s a way we can organize it and logistically manage it, we want to do that.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s current emergency planning guidelines include a section on calculating attendance for students learning in a hybrid or fully-at-home model, but do not specifically address keeping a student home out of caution.

Board member Gregg Neavin noted that one of the sections of the district’s health and safety and reopening plans dealt with transitioning in and out of quarantine, depending on the circumstances of the pandemic.

“If we had to shut down a school, those kids would go home, learn there and be marked present,” Neavin said. “At the same time, here’s what I’m afraid of: we have 3,700 kids and ‘Hey, we’re going to Grandma’s this weekend, why don’t we get a head-start on Friday?’”

Pynos said the important thing was for the district’s policy to give it accountability to the state education department.

“We don’t want it to be a situation where it’s abused,” Pynos said. “And we don’t want to punish parents for being cautious. We just need a little time to frame out the particulars.”

Manzewitsch said the district should allow hybrid and in-person students to log onto classes online and receive credit for attending if the situation warrants an abundance of caution.

“These kids should not be penalized with absences for following the guidelines that the school has enacted,” she wrote. “If the district is asking parents to exercise an abundance of caution and not send their child to school sick, then the district should have a policy regarding absence which encourages families to do so.”

Board member Mark Kozlosky advised parents to read the updated “Attendance Guidelines” section on the “Parents” tab at FRSDk12.org.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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