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A message from the Superintendent

January 5, 2024

Dear Families,

In December you received a joint letter from Commissioner Riley of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and myself. This was a standard letter shared across the Commonwealth and speaks to the benefits of students attending school. Today, I would like to share more specific information about chronic absenteeism and the Falmouth Public Schools.

DESE has identified schools across the Commonwealth as “Attendance Priority Schools” if a school’s 2022-23 chronic absenteeism rate was higher than the pre-pandemic 2018-19 statewide chronic absenteeism for that school's gradespan, unless the school decreased their chronic absenteeism rate by 50 percent or more between the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years.

DESE defines chronically absent as missing at least 10 percent of days enrolled (18 days absent if enrolled for a school year of 180 days), regardless of the reason for the absence. All seven of our schools were identified as “Attendance Priority Schools” because our 2022-23 absenteeism rate was higher than the State’s 2018-19 rate and we did not reduce our 2022-23 rate by 50% over the 21-22 school year.

Falmouth’s percent of students who missed 18 or more days of school (excused or unexcused) in the past five years is as follows:

School Year

Percent of Students Chronically Absent (18 Days or More)

2022-2023

28.5

2021-2022

35.2

2020-2021

17.1

2019-2020

13.8

2018-2019

14.4

As you can see, we reduced the number of students considered chronically absent in the 2022-23 school year by over 6% compared to the 2021-22 school year. The 2022-23 rate of 28.5% equates to 784 students who missed 18 or more school days. However, you can also see the 2022-23 rate is nearly double the pre-pandemic rate of 14.4% in the 2018-19 school year. I am confident that together we can continue to reduce the number of days students miss school and return to rates closer to the 2018-19 school year.

There are many reasons children miss school. When it comes to illnesses and school attendance, I consulted Dr. Gregory Parkinson, our district physician. We understand that making decisions to send your child to school when they are not feeling well can be a difficult decision in light of the recommendations made during the 2019-2022 school years. Of course, always consult with your primary care provider, but as a rule of thumb, we should get back to pre-pandemic standards. Students may return to school after an acute illness as long as they are “fever-free” for twenty-four hours without taking a fever-reducing medication and their symptoms are improving. However, please continue to follow COVID-19 guidelines if your child tests positive. If you have questions, please contact your school nurse.

Thank you for your partnership in our efforts to improve school attendance. If you have any questions, please reach out to your school principal. We love our students and we want them in school each and every day.

Sincerely,

Lori S. Duerr, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools