DANVILLE — When one of Kim Lindsay’s second-graders at Northeast Elementary Magnet School arrives late to school, she gives the student an unexcused tardy.
According to Danville schools’ student handbook, first-time K-5 offenders get a warning. Repeat offenders get a detention, and their parents are called into the school for a meeting.
But Lindsay said there’s no consequence when parents pick up their children from school before the end of the day, something that seems to be occurring more frequently.
“It’s getting to be a real problem,” she said, adding parents “will show up anywhere from 5 minutes to a half hour early. The problem is, we are teaching up to the dismissal time. If a child leaves early, he or she misses that instruction.”
Lindsay first raised the concern at the Ownership in Education Committee’s January meeting. The Ownership in Education manual outlines students’ rights and responsibilities and consequences for breaking the rules, and each year a committee of staff, parents, students and other community members review it and make suggestions to improve it and keep it up to date.
This year’s committee has been reviewing the handbook since November. It will recommend any proposed changes to the school board this spring.
So far, the committee has looked at making sure the schools’ attendance and tardy policies are consistent throughout the district, among other things. Lindsay and other teachers hope it will continue discussing the early pickup problem and possible consequences at its next meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Danville High School library, 202 E. Fairchild St.
Danville elementary schools start at 8 a.m. and dismiss at 2:15 p.m., except on scheduled “early-out” days.
“If I have someone come in 2 minutes late in the morning, I give them a detention,” Lindsay said. “But if a parent comes in 20 minutes early to pick up their child, there’s nothing I can do. There’s no punishment.”
Allowances are made for excused absences such as doctor appointments. But too many times, teachers said, the reasons don’t seem valid.
According to teachers, parents have said they need to run errands, get to another child’s sporting event or after-school activity on time or are trying to avoid the traffic queue after school. One parent even said her daughter had to get her hair done.
“Or we don’t get a reason,” Lindsay said.
Teachers said they have tried to explain to parents the importance of keeping their kids in school, sometimes to no avail. That’s why they think consequences should be considered.
“We don’t want to make things difficult for parents,” Lindsay said. “But this should be a warning to them that we do take instruction seriously.”
At the last meeting, members discussed applying the same consequences for unexcused tardiness to unexcused early pickups.
For middle school students, the consequence for the first offense is a warning; the second, a detention up to 30 minutes; the third, a dismissal pending parent conference. Repeated offenses may lead to an out-of-school suspension up to five days.
For high school students, the consequence for the first and second offenses are a detention up to 55 minutes, and the third and fourth, a dismissal pending parent conference. Repeated offenses may lead to an out-of-school suspension up to 10 days.
Lindsay’s class has physical education during the last period. She said P.E. teacher Beckey Burgoyne works with students up until 2:10 p.m. And Lindsay sometimes works with small groups of students on math or reading during that time.
“Some people think, ‘Oh, it’s just 10 minutes.’ But the majority of teachers are instructing right up to the end of the day. Every minute of the day should count. That’s what we use as our mantra here at Northeast,” Lindsay said.
“The end of the day is also when you’re getting your homework ready to take home, you’re getting your agenda book filled out. It’s really an important time of the day,” added Burgoyne, who used to be a classroom teacher.
Following Tuesday’s meeting, the committee will hold public forums on any proposed changes at 6 p.m. March 5 at North Ridge Middle School, 1619 N. Jackson St., and 6 p.m. March 7 at South View, 133 E. Ninth St. A final meeting will be held in April.