Stacie Aldrich told the Bryan County Board of Education at its meeting last week that she had concerns about the new attendance protocol and how it could affect parents with special needs children.
"We pay a fortune for medical equipment to take care of our child's medical concerns and I'm concerned about how this will affect us," she said.
The genesis for parents concerns, Superintendent Paul Brooksher said, seemed to be about requiring a doctor's note for an absence to be considered excused.
Another concern, Aldrich said, was that in her case, and perhaps others, she lives on a dirt road that is maintained by the county and can be impassable after a severe storm, which could cause her child to miss school and rack up an unexcused absence.
"Sometimes, I get stuck on my road and can't get out. And sometimes the school bus can't get to my house," she said.
Board Chairman Eddie Warren was sympathetic about the road issue but explained that road maintenance was outside the purview of the school board.
Brooksher told Aldrich that hers was a unique situation and mitigating circumstances like that could be dealt with and that unexcused absences would still allow schoolwork to be made up.
Prior to the mother-of-three addressing the school board, Brooksher gave an extensive update on the new school attendance protocol, seeking to clarify and debunk what he said was incorrect information being disseminated on social media.
He said that many social media sites were giving out incorrect information, which ranged from students with unexcused absences not being allowed to make up missed schoolwork to the board changing the protocol to give local physicians a financial boost.
Brooksher said there was no malicious intent in the rule change and that the attendance committee made the change to address excessive absences – both excused and unexcused – and that he wanted to work with parents as a team approach to deciding what could be done to maximize the child's attendance and success at school.
The superintendent said the school's change in attendance protocol would be helpful to students and parents alike in that the combined efforts of parents, students and school personnel could be used to find solutions to issues that might keep students away from school.
Brooksher reiterated several times that the sole reason for the change was to find ways to help children be successful at school and maximize their educational experience.
Nothing about the change was meant to be punitive, he said, and he understood a parent's reluctance to take a child to the doctor for an issue that could be handled by the child's caregiver.
Yvette Asplund had similar concerns about the new policy and said an earlier full explanation about the reasons behind the protocol change would have been beneficial.
"The one thing I would say is that it would have been helpful to get the information out earlier about the protocol change," she said. "It would have helped and alleviated a lot of the stress that parents are experiencing right now."
"The rumors in the social media could have been nipped in the bud before they had a chance to get started.”
Both Aldrich and Asplund said they better understood the intent and limitations of the new attendance protocol.
Brooksher said he wanted to change mindsets about unexcused absences and let parents know that school work can be made up, to understand the benefits of tackling attendance problems as a team and to know that an unexcused absence can be understandable and not necessarily negative.
In other business, Bill Vickery updated the school board on the status of the various renovation projects throughout the school system.
He said that things were proceeding nicely and that while not every project would be finished by the time students walked through the school doors on Aug. 7, most would be and his team would be on hand to complete things as quickly as possible.
He credited the school custodians with being helpful throughout the entire renovation process.
The school board accepted the following donations:
$10,000 from Gary and Jill Stanberry, owner of local McDonalds Restaurants, for the Richmond Hill High School Athletic Department. $80 from Donor's Choose for storage crates and book holders for Mary Boland at GWCES. $512.04 from Donor's Choose for Natalia Martinez at GWCES. $151.42 from Kroger to GWCES. $650 for a yearbook camera kit at GWCES from Drs. Ronald and Regina Dandy.
The school board approved the use of school buses and school parking lots for Oct. 20-22 for the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival.
The board announced 120 new teachers for the district and that they had just finished new teacher orientation.