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Attendance Rates Poor for One School in Washington County

"We've put a particular emphasis on South High, and there's a lot of really very significance and positive things going on at that school. So I think you're going to see that students are responding very positively to that and that you're going to see the attendance rate actually improve," she said.
HAGERSTOWN, Md. - School is still in session, even if kids might have the day off for the Thanksgiving holiday, faculty members are hard at work planning ahead.

But plans mean nothing if students don't show up to class.

Habitual truants are students who miss over 20 percent of school days throughout the year. But Washington County Public Schools have pretty good attendance records, and they're above the state average.

"We've emphasized that with families, and with students that it's really important to be in that classroom everyday, that if you aren't there you miss something really important, and in fact, the class misses you as well," said Carol Costello, Supervisor of Student Services with Washington County Public Schools.

Carol said they obviously don't want kids going to school if they're sick, but they do want kids in school every other day.

So they offer incentives, like ice cream socials.

"We really have urged our schools to also reward kids who improve their attendance, and also have shorter term incentives like things like they could do for a  marking period," said Costello.

And out of the 46 schools in Washington County, 23 made the list on the State Department of Education's report for 2012-2013, which came out this week.

But only one school has a percentage that is considered a problem: South Hagerstown High School.

"Certainly the economy over the last several years has hit the more urban areas particularly hard, and that would certainly be the case in this community," Costello said. 

Costello said South High has been a trouble spot in terms of habitual truants for years. With a student population of just under 13,000, the habitual truancy rate is at 6.36 percent.

But this year could be different.

"We've put a particular emphasis on South High, and there's a lot of really very significance and positive things going on at that school. So I think you're going to see that students are responding very positively to that and that you're going to see the attendance rate actually improve," she said.

There are student intervention specialists at the area middle and high schools, or graduation coaches, who help at-risk students meet their end goal of getting their diplomas.

The Washington County Public Schools also have partnerships with the Department of Social Services and the Court System. These partnerships help emphasize to students' families the importance of being in school everyday.

Their next report card on attendance, at South Hagerstown High, and across the district, will be out at the end of the school year.

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