Since the beginning of this semester, students have heard about a new tardy policy that has spread through word of mouth (gossip) or calls home. The idea is to send chronically tardy students to a special Saturday Academy session, yet many have been confused about the exact details of this rule as many “theories” of what it actually entails have been spreading with the distribution of the Saturday Academy slips.
The policy states that students are offered the chance to clear previous tardies or unexcused absences by attending one section of required Saturday Academy (which is actually not offered every week). Five (or more) tardies does not result in an unexcused absence, as some people assumed, but it does lead to a mandatory Saturday Academy. Although it isn’t always enforced, many students have been mandated to attend without really knowing what it is for. The Saturday session is not considered a detention to combat behavioral issues but rather a way to give students a chance to resolve attendance issues.
Assistant Principal Jim Larson shed some light on the goals of Saturday Academy.
“We are currently utilizing Saturday Academy as a method to strategically help hold students accountable for attendance,” Larson explained in an email. “Moving forward, we will determine who to invite to SA based on the attendance trends that we are seeing. I think what students accomplish in SA is really up to them, but most kids are completing work, and we also typically have teachers on campus that are working with kids on specific content or projects. SA is not optional, and we also work with families around SA when there is a conflict.”
Many students at Novato High do not fully understand how Saturday Academy is actually beneficial for them, as tardies and absences don’t always impact their grades. In many cases, students find it intrusive as they have their own lives outside of school and prefer weekends without school obligations. A large number of students live far from school, have work, or other personal responsibilities, making it impractical for them to attend Saturday Academy.
Some students who receive the mandate slip do not respond, while others simply can’t attend.
“After I got the Saturday school slip, I contacted the staff saying I couldn’t go because of work,” explained junior Maya Fukumoto, “but after that I never got another email or slip.”
The regulations for enforcing attendance eventually became tougher after the rate of tardiness coming back from lunch significantly grew. According to the Novato High handbook, “When a student is absent, tardy, or truant, it does not allow the student to fully engage in the learning process.” The tardiness policy in the handbook states that, “students with 10 tardies per class will meet with an administrator and be placed on a School Attendance Review Team (SART) Agreement. If students are in violation of the SART agreement, suspension from co-curricular activities, including but not limited to athletics, dances, and MSA events may occur. Failure to serve 2 Saturday Academy for tardies will result in an alternative to suspension, Restorative Justice, etc.”
Part of the problem can be fixed by further promoting these rules to reduce confusion, promptly making the regulations clear, so students understand what is required of them. Ultimately, some students have the habit of taking the school rules for granted, regardless of what is written in the handbook, Many haven’t even taken the time to read the handbook and it is not usually discussed in class as teachers present their own individual rules. A lot of these issues have surfaced during the pandemic, which has caused some students to develop poor attendance habits.
It is necessary to find a solution for students who can’t attend Saturday Academy. Although the idea of attending these Saturday sessions has some positives, many students remain unclear on the potential trouble that comes from missing them or the overall value of the Academy, and how it can really help them.