FRANKLIN COUNTY – A local school system is refocusing on student attendance this year, proposing a new alternative to out-of-school suspension.
Although the disciplinary action will still be used, Franklin County plans to keep kids in the classroom more than previous years during out-of-school suspension.
Dr. Mark Church, school superintendent, said Franklin County, like each school division in the state, is held accountable for their student absentee rate. Church said the district had more student’s absent from school last year than they'd like.
“We are looking for more ways of keeping students in school,” Church said.
Church said in Franklin County High School last school year, more than 350 students, making up more than 12 percent of the population, had over 10 unexcused absences.
Forty-seven students had more than 10 out-of-school suspension days for the year. While working to curb overall absences, Church said OSS days are a statistic they can change.
"We know that we will have disciplinary actions with students, but sending them out of school isn't always the best way of dealing those issues,” Church said.
The school board just approved Church's proposal of creating what he calls a secondary learning center.
The center will be housed in what is now a storage building behind Benjamin Franklin Middle School in Rocky Mount. Students who are assigned more than three days of out-of-school suspension could be recommended by a school committee to serve that OSS time in a separate classroom at the center instead of at home, where they are missing valuable teacher instruction.
Church said they have the resources from other parts of their current budget to start the program,and the school district is hiring teachers to work in the center.
"We want our students in school every day. We don't want them out sick, and we don't want them out playing or doing anything else, so we can hurry up and get them ready for their exams and through school,” Church said.
He hopes to start the program this semester.