JOHNSTOWN - The Greater Johnstown School District is studying ways to deal with student absences and tardiness.
The Board of Education recently formed an ad-hoc committee to examine the district's attendance policies.
Board President Paul VanDenburgh called for the formation of the committee.
Last month, the board discussed how the district's attendance policies from 10 years ago need to be re-examined.
"It doesn't look like it's been done for some time," VanDenburgh said.
Board members and administrators provided personal comments about students arriving late and attendance problems getting worse.
The Leader-Herald found last month attendance is actually up in three of five city schools since last year, according to school data obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request.
For example, through May, JHS had a 91.5 percent attendance rate this school year, with 8,252 combined absences of 618 students. Last year, the school had a 90.1 attendance rate.
"Parents and the students have a job to get here," said board member Douglas Dougherty, who will be part of the ad-hoc committee.
He said poor attendance reflects poorly on state aid coming into the district, adding people "wonder why their taxes go up."
VanDenburgh said the district should encourage the public to help because good attendance is "everybody's responsibility."
According to existing policy, for a full-year course, 20 absences result in a loss of full-time credit. For a half-year, 10 absences result in a loss of credit. For a 10-week course, five absences result in a loss of credit.
Dougherty said he thinks 20 absences for loss of a credit is "too much time," and he would cut that figure in half. He said absences in school only should apply if someone is "drastically sick." He said he also would like to see the Fulton County district attorney involved in city school truancy issues, similar to such involvement with the Gloversville Enlarged School District.
"Too many teeth have been knocked out of the attendance policies by a lot of things," Dougherty said.
He says he sees "an awful lot of [student] cars someplace else when they should be here."
VanDenburgh suggested Superintendent Robert DeLilli canvass other districts to see how they handle attendance. He also noted the board is supposed to receive written attendance reports from the administration, but "I haven't seen one."
"We're no longer in the Ozzie and Harriet era," said board member Evamarie Mraz. "People are working and we have to examine how to get kids to school."
Board Vice President Jennifer Sponnoble said attendance is a "huge" issue in the district that needs to be worked on.
She said the board needs to discuss these issues with administrators, including as attendance relates to dropout rates and failures.
"There's still no teeth [in policies]," she said. "Until that starts to happen, we're left with this process that doesn't really work."
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.