The Strait regional school board includes (back, from the left) board members: Jim Austen (Central Inverness); Rosalee Parker (East Guysborough); vice chair Richelle MacLaughlin (West Antigonish); Barbara Quirk (Town of Antigonish); Mary Jess MacDonald (South Inverness); Joanne Reddick (African-Nova Scotian representative); Paula Paul (Mi’kmaq representative); and George Kehoe (West Richmond). (Front, from the left): Chelsea Burke (West Guysborough); Francine Boudreau (East Richmond); SRSB superintendent of schools Ford Rice; chair Jamie Samson (East Antigonish); and Anne Peters (North Inverness).

PORT HAWKESBURY: Schools in the Strait region are now operating under a new Provincial Student Attendance and Engagement Policy.

The new rules share some similarities with the Strait regional school board’s (SRSB) previous attendance policy, which was formally rescinded at the SRSB’s November meeting. Like the previous policy, it will include the use of incentives, such as positive reinforcement, as well as interventions, to encourage student attendance.

However, the new policy outlines when and how these interventions are to be used, and clarifies the responsibilities of students, teachers, guardians, and community partners regarding attendance.

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One change under the new policy is the potential loss of credit for students in Grades 10–12 who are absent for more than 20 per cent of class time. Final decisions will be made by principals in consultation with teachers, and the students’ individual circumstances will be taken into account.

“Previously, there was no specific targeted attendance level, but a student’s attendance may have been a factor in the student not meeting course outcomes and therefore not earning the course credit,” said Deanna Gillis, SRSB coordinator of communications.

The new policy also identifies an educational plan that students can submit when they know they will be absent for an extended period. The principal will review and approve the plan in consultation with the teacher.

The new policy came into effect on October 1. It is Nova Scotia’s first province-wide attendance policy and was designed to address a growing concern with absenteeism.

“The policy is intended to help improve student attendance through a balance of supports, incentives and consequences, without adding to the workload of teachers,” said Zach Churchill, Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development in a September news release.

Deanna Gillis said that overall attendance in the SRSB has been good, and that the board is working to provide information to families on the new rules as needed.

“We have heard from school administrators that parents [or] guardians have contacted some of them to ask for clarification on the loss of credit… as well as for information on the educational plan when there are known absences,” said Gillis.

“At this point in time, we are working closely with school-based staff in the implementation of the policy, as well as providing communication to students, parents and guardians, and staff.”