Over the last few years, Novato High has implemented a new way of replacing unexcused absences. It has been somewhat successful in its voluntary form, but recently, slips have been handed out to students, requiring them to attend Saturday School as a result of a missed day or a series of missed days.
(*I received one on the first day of the second semester, and it instantly threw me off.)
Kris Cosca, the first-year Superintendent of the Novato Unified School District, commented on Saturday School and what he knows.
“There are multiple goals for the program,” explained Cosca. “The first is to give students an opportunity to avoid absences and to allow them to make up for missed learning. The other goal is to allow the district to make up for mixed revenue as a result of the student missing a day of school. The school district receives money for each day a student is in attendance. Regardless of the reason for the absence, we do not receive money for days when students miss school.”
All of these points are great for students looking to better themselves academically or redeem attendance issues. However, the program seemed to lose its focus when students, including myself, started to receive purple passes summoning them to report to Saturday School. The passes are intended to discipline students for something that happened at school, and the responses have varied.
Although weekday detention during and after school has been around for decades, this expansion on the idea seems to encroach a little bit too much on students’ personal lives. Saturdays away from campus might have a lot more value to a student than making up an absence or making money back for the district. Asking them to come in could hurt a lot more than the attendance record.
The most obvious effect might be a student who has a weekend job and needs to sacrifice money-making opportunities to be in a classroom on the weekend.
“I didn’t go because first of all I refuse to wake up at 8:30 on a saturday to go to school, let alone go to school for four hours,” said junior Emma Backlund, who among many others has received a slip. “I think it is an overall stupid concept and maybe if it was just a detention, I would actually attend how it was before.”
Detention was a solution that was inconvenient but still on a school day, so many students could plan around it like an after-school activity instead of the better part of a Saturday. Many students have just decided to not go, but many have no idea the consequences of letting these pile up with the school. Many think they could just go away or get pushed back to a later date, but Assistant Principal Greg Fister cleared the air on what happens if you don’t show up.
“If a student misses one Saturday Academy, it doubles and they are assigned the next Academy,” Fister said. “Upon missing 2+ Academy, they can be assigned Restorative Justice (an alternative to out of school suspension).”
These consequences might seem a lot more serious than it being pushed back to another date, and they are. Even if somebody were to forget, they have not one but two Saturday Academies to make up at the school. Novato High students have more to do that can better themselves on a Saturday than making up tardies or unexcused absences.