Wawasee Schools To Crack Down On Literacy, Chronic Absenteeism

July 9, 2024 at 9:03 p.m.
Wawasee School board member Steve Baut (C) asks for clarity regarding the math exceptionality exemption to Indiana’s recently passed IREAD retention policy. Pictured (L to R) are Don Bokhart, Baut and Neil Likens. Photo by Marisa Sweatland, InkFreeNews
Wawasee School board member Steve Baut (C) asks for clarity regarding the math exceptionality exemption to Indiana’s recently passed IREAD retention policy. Pictured (L to R) are Don Bokhart, Baut and Neil Likens. Photo by Marisa Sweatland, InkFreeNews

By Marissa Sweatland, InkFreeNews

SYRACUSE - During its regular monthly board meeting Tuesday, Wawasee Assistant Superintendent Dr. Shelly Wilfong alerted the school board to a couple new state laws that will impact K-12 education in Indiana in the upcoming academic year.
The first state law Wilfong presented the board was the IREAD (Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination) retention policy and exemptions. The new IREAD retention policy requires third-grade students to be retained if they do not pass IREAD.
IREAD is a grade three reading assessment that is designed to measure foundational reading skills based on Indiana academic standards.
New statutory criteria for exemptions to the IREAD retention policy include: special education, students whose IEP case conference committee has determined that promotion to the next grade level is appropriate; English learner, a student who is an identified English learner who has received services for fewer than two years and has an ILP committee that determines promotion to the next grade level is appropriate; math exceptionality, a student who passes the ILEARN mathematics assessment; retained twice, a student who was retained twice in K-2 and has already received intensive intervention for at least two years and previously retained, a student who was retained once previously in third grade.
“This will impact our corporation minimally because of the pass rate we have for IREAD-3,” Wilfong explained to the board. “I am not saying we will not have any one retained but we’re not talking about needing to add a whole other teacher because of this.”
Indiana also strengthened attendance guidelines within the recently passed legislation. According to the new Indiana attendance guidelines, the superintendent or attendance officer is required to report a student who is habitually absent from school to an intake officer of the juvenile court or the Indiana Department of Child Services. Within the guidelines includes the responsibility for superintendent or attendance officer to report a student’s habitual truancy to the prosecuting attorney. Prosecuting attorneys must notify parents if an affidavit of habitual truancy is filled with the office.
“Pre-COVID, attendance was becoming a big issue and COVID just added fuel to the fire,” Wilfong explained to the board. “The state has recognized that student attendance is really faltering and if you aren’t in school, you can’t get the instruction and you can’t learn.”
The Indiana Attendance Expectation is 94%, which would equate to 10 or less missed days per academic year. Under the attendance guidelines, three absences are defined.
An excused absence is an illness verified with a physician’s statement dated at the time of the visit or illness and the note must be turned in within one week or the absence will be considered “unexcused”; death in the family; the school sends child home sick and if due to fever, the following day will also be marked as “excused”; maternity; military and religious instruction up to two hours per week.
A parent/guardian-verified absence is defined as a parent or guardian’s choice to keep the student home for the student’s best interest. Under the attendance guidelines, four days per semester are allowed or as approved by a building administrator. Any day beyond the fourth will be marked as “unexcused.”
The attendance guidelines state that students should have zero unexcused absences. An unexcused absence is any absence not covered under an excused absence beyond four parent/guardian verified per semester or a non-verified absence. A non-verified absence is a failure to notify the school of an absence within 24 hours.
If a student is absent without being excused for five days within a 10-week period, a truancy prevention plan will be implemented as required by the law. However, this does not include excused absence days.
All absences will be monitored and disciplinary action may be taken. Wawasee Community School Corporation will refer truant students to the Kosciusko Prosecutor’s Office or the Department of Child Services upon reaching 10 unexcused absences from school or when the student has been absent for any reason for 18 days during the school year, as required by the law. However, there is an exception for chronically ill students who under the care of a medical professional.
“The state defines chronic absenteeism as missing 10% of the school year, which is 18 days,” Wilfong explained.
“Have we had, in the past, to turn anyone into the prosecutor’s office?” Mike Wilson, board member, asked.
“Yes,” Superintendent Dr. Steve Troyer responded.
The first student day of the 2024 school year is Wednesday, Aug. 14. The 2024-25 waiver days are scheduled for Monday, Sept. 23; Monday, Feb. 10; and Friday, March 21.
The board approved Jessica Murray’s, director of food services, request for the 2024-25 school meal prices to remain the same as the 2023-24 meal prices: $1.50, elementary breakfast; $2.85, elementary lunch; $1.75 middle and high school breakfast; $2.90, middle school lunch; $2.95, high school lunch; $2.60, adult breakfast; and $4.80, adult lunch.
Farm Credit donated $250 to the Wawasee High School FFA program.
For its last order of business for the evening, the board approved changing the date for the regular August board meeting to accommodate for Back to School Night. The board approved to move the meeting up by one day. The next regular Wawasee School board meeting will be 5:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12 in the Professional Learning Center, 801 S. Sycamore St., Syracuse.

SYRACUSE - During its regular monthly board meeting Tuesday, Wawasee Assistant Superintendent Dr. Shelly Wilfong alerted the school board to a couple new state laws that will impact K-12 education in Indiana in the upcoming academic year.
The first state law Wilfong presented the board was the IREAD (Indiana Reading Evaluation and Determination) retention policy and exemptions. The new IREAD retention policy requires third-grade students to be retained if they do not pass IREAD.
IREAD is a grade three reading assessment that is designed to measure foundational reading skills based on Indiana academic standards.
New statutory criteria for exemptions to the IREAD retention policy include: special education, students whose IEP case conference committee has determined that promotion to the next grade level is appropriate; English learner, a student who is an identified English learner who has received services for fewer than two years and has an ILP committee that determines promotion to the next grade level is appropriate; math exceptionality, a student who passes the ILEARN mathematics assessment; retained twice, a student who was retained twice in K-2 and has already received intensive intervention for at least two years and previously retained, a student who was retained once previously in third grade.
“This will impact our corporation minimally because of the pass rate we have for IREAD-3,” Wilfong explained to the board. “I am not saying we will not have any one retained but we’re not talking about needing to add a whole other teacher because of this.”
Indiana also strengthened attendance guidelines within the recently passed legislation. According to the new Indiana attendance guidelines, the superintendent or attendance officer is required to report a student who is habitually absent from school to an intake officer of the juvenile court or the Indiana Department of Child Services. Within the guidelines includes the responsibility for superintendent or attendance officer to report a student’s habitual truancy to the prosecuting attorney. Prosecuting attorneys must notify parents if an affidavit of habitual truancy is filled with the office.
“Pre-COVID, attendance was becoming a big issue and COVID just added fuel to the fire,” Wilfong explained to the board. “The state has recognized that student attendance is really faltering and if you aren’t in school, you can’t get the instruction and you can’t learn.”
The Indiana Attendance Expectation is 94%, which would equate to 10 or less missed days per academic year. Under the attendance guidelines, three absences are defined.
An excused absence is an illness verified with a physician’s statement dated at the time of the visit or illness and the note must be turned in within one week or the absence will be considered “unexcused”; death in the family; the school sends child home sick and if due to fever, the following day will also be marked as “excused”; maternity; military and religious instruction up to two hours per week.
A parent/guardian-verified absence is defined as a parent or guardian’s choice to keep the student home for the student’s best interest. Under the attendance guidelines, four days per semester are allowed or as approved by a building administrator. Any day beyond the fourth will be marked as “unexcused.”
The attendance guidelines state that students should have zero unexcused absences. An unexcused absence is any absence not covered under an excused absence beyond four parent/guardian verified per semester or a non-verified absence. A non-verified absence is a failure to notify the school of an absence within 24 hours.
If a student is absent without being excused for five days within a 10-week period, a truancy prevention plan will be implemented as required by the law. However, this does not include excused absence days.
All absences will be monitored and disciplinary action may be taken. Wawasee Community School Corporation will refer truant students to the Kosciusko Prosecutor’s Office or the Department of Child Services upon reaching 10 unexcused absences from school or when the student has been absent for any reason for 18 days during the school year, as required by the law. However, there is an exception for chronically ill students who under the care of a medical professional.
“The state defines chronic absenteeism as missing 10% of the school year, which is 18 days,” Wilfong explained.
“Have we had, in the past, to turn anyone into the prosecutor’s office?” Mike Wilson, board member, asked.
“Yes,” Superintendent Dr. Steve Troyer responded.
The first student day of the 2024 school year is Wednesday, Aug. 14. The 2024-25 waiver days are scheduled for Monday, Sept. 23; Monday, Feb. 10; and Friday, March 21.
The board approved Jessica Murray’s, director of food services, request for the 2024-25 school meal prices to remain the same as the 2023-24 meal prices: $1.50, elementary breakfast; $2.85, elementary lunch; $1.75 middle and high school breakfast; $2.90, middle school lunch; $2.95, high school lunch; $2.60, adult breakfast; and $4.80, adult lunch.
Farm Credit donated $250 to the Wawasee High School FFA program.
For its last order of business for the evening, the board approved changing the date for the regular August board meeting to accommodate for Back to School Night. The board approved to move the meeting up by one day. The next regular Wawasee School board meeting will be 5:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 12 in the Professional Learning Center, 801 S. Sycamore St., Syracuse.

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