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District starts to take a close look at absenteeism

In Wednesday’s meeting, Hood River County School District Board of directors discussed a wide variety of topics and updates, including the dawning issue of student absenteeism.

Superintendent Dan Goldman said, “Last year, the administration started looking into (absenteeism), studying attendance reports, student by student, for each classroom. We’re looking at the attendance reports and tracking the students and making more of an effort than before,” Goldman said.

Hood River News will have a more detailed report on absenteeism in the Feb. 19 edition.

In other business before the board this week:

n District Budget Committee seeks applicants. There are four openings on the Hood River County School District budget committee for residents who live in the following zones:

Zone 1 — three-year term through June 2016 (Cascade Locks/West Hood River)

Zone 2 — one-year term through June 2014 (“West West Hood River”)

Zone 4 — one-year term through June 2014 (Odell)

Zone 5 — three-year term through June 2016 (Parkdale)

If you or someone you know is interested visit http://bit.ly/1fX3M3g. The deadline for applications is 5 p.m. Feb. 19.

n Bond rating: the district learned this week it has improved to an A Double Plus bond rating.

“It shows our community we are good stewards of their funds,” Goldman said.

n Poverty calculations change: the District stands to lose $200,000 next year in State School Funding because of the Legislature’s approval of a new formula for figuring how much each district gets for support for students who live in poverty. Goldman said that the district would lose another $30,000 in funding it receives via the Education Service District, because of the same recalculation.

“That’s the bad news. The good news is that we learned today that the state will appropriate more funding this school year for K-12 funding than originally thought,” Goldman said. The total is about another $36 million this year (ending June 30), which add about $265,000 to this year’s HRCSD budget, and $430,000 for the next biennium.

“So it’s not so gloomy as we thought, and this is for us a really good day on the state school funding train,” Goldman said. “But this is also a roller coaster. You’re just chasing the numbers. I have to say this is an untenable way to be.”

n Snow: Goldman reported that in the past week he has gained another 200 Twitter followers under the age of 18. “Quite a few of them pressed me pretty hard: ‘no school today, no school today’,” Goldman said. He praised the work of the transportation department in getting kids to school “as well as they could.”

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On the topic of proposed changes to bus schedule and school start times, the board heard from Mid Valley Elementary teacher Megan Fileaut, who urged the board to do more to give community the chance to weigh in on the subject. (The district announced last month it is looking into reducing the overall number of bus routes, and of staggering the starting times of schools, both as ways to reduce the number of buses it needs to serve students.) The district has a survey on its website that Fileaut said should be offered in Spanish as well as English. In addition, the district should consider the demographics of the mid- and upper-valley population, and the reduced access to computers and the Internet Fileaut said. “Access to this survey is an issue when the predominate way to (give input) is via the Internet,” Fileaut said.

She also asked the district to consider “the plight of working parents” in considering any earlier starting times, given their work schedules and the added challenge of extra babysitting or day care. “Families are struggling with leaving kids home alone. A lot of kids are showing up at the schools as early as 6:30 as it is,” Fileaut said.

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