Attendance dwindles toward end of Central's make-up week during spring break


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ST. CROIX - Attendance at Central High School's make-up days - which occurred while the rest of the territory's public school students were on spring break and St. Thomas' Carnival was at its peak - fluctuated widely, dropping off significantly toward the end of the week.

Education Department officials said that despite the varying attendance, the week at the Educational Complex campus went smoothly.

Central High School students were expected to forgo their scheduled spring break from April 28 to May 2 to make up for instructional time lost after a noxious odor closed the school for two weeks in March. The make-up week featured extra-long school days, which ran from 7:30 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

According to figures provided by the Education Department in response to a Daily News request, the attendance rate during the make-up week started with a high of about 68 percent on the first day, April 28, and dropped each day as the week progressed until by Friday, May 2, only about 15 percent of the school's students showed up for class.

However, the week was still a "positive" one, principal Janasee Sinclair said, noting that teachers tried to make it interesting for students.

St. Croix Superintendent Gary Molloy said he would have liked to have seen better attendance, but he thinks the important thing is that the make-up time was made available.

"We made sure the opportunity was there for the students to make up the work and the teachers were there to provide that," Molloy said.

Central High School's students number approximately 1,100.

The attendance during make-up week was 749 for Monday, 517 for Tuesday, 477 for Wednesday, 341 for Thursday, and 169 for Friday.

"We are certainly pleased by the high numbers of students we saw attending school at the beginning of the week," Molloy said in a short prepared statement the Education Department sent with the figures. He thanked parents and faculty and staff.

"It is also evident, however, that there is a dip in the numbers after Wednesday. While we sought to temper what we thought would be a decrease in the number of students attending classes during the week, we also received several phone calls from parents informing the Department to, for one reason or another, expect the drop in attendance. Frankly, that is disappointing," Molloy said in the release.

Approximately 70 to 75 students were excused for the week to go on various school trips, said Education Department spokeswoman Ananta Pancham.

Other absences will be considered on a case-by-case basis, Molloy said. He said the determination had not yet been made Monday on how many of the absences were considered unexcused.

"There were some children who were legitimately out," he said.

Molloy said that to his knowledge, there is not any required attendance rate in V.I. Code for a day to be considered an instructional day.

"The expectation is that the parents would bring their children to school," Molloy said.

While attendance is not tied directly to funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Molloy said overall attendance is one of a number of factors that is considered in evaluating Adequate Yearly Progress, a requirement under the federal No Child Left Behind legislation.

Central's overall annual attendance rate typically fluctuates between 90 and 92 percent, although for AYP, the rate needs to be approximately 95 percent, he said.

The number of school lunches served does affect reimbursements for the school lunch program, funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Molloy said. For make-up days where fewer lunches were served, the school will receive less money, he said.

St. Croix American Federation of Teachers President Rosa Soto-Thomas said teachers had wanted to make up the days at the end of the school year rather than on spring break, but they showed up and did their jobs.

Molloy said he would have preferred to have done the make-up days a little differently, but it wasn't possible.

"In retrospect, I would have liked to have spread out the make-up days a little more, but based on the time period and the end of the year coming up, the more we delay, it would have been difficult to get the time," he said.

All the missed time has now been made up, so no further make-up days will be necessary, officials said.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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