APPLETON (NBC 26) — According to Stephanie Marta, the Attendance Coordinator at the Appleton Area School District (AASD), chronic absenteeism is a nationwide concern, with high numbers observed across all grade levels.
- Schools have faced escalating absentee rates since the 2020 pandemic, with no improvement after four years.
- Officials at a major state school district are proactively addressing the issue.
- Appleton East High School students propose impactful solutions, which officials are considering.
Since the start of the 2020 pandemic, local schools have been battling skyrocketing absentee rates. Even four years later the problem isn’t going away.
In response, officials at one of the state's largest school districts are taking steps to address the issue head-on.
Meanwhile, students at Appleton East High School are stepping up with ideas they believe could make an impact. Ideas school officials are considering.
According to Stephanie Marta, the Attendance Coordinator at the Appleton Area School District (AASD), chronic absenteeism is a nationwide concern, with high numbers observed across all grade levels.
In the first semester of the 2023-2024 school year, absentee rates stood at 11.9% for elementary schools, 16.2% for middle schools, and a staggering 23.2% for high schools within the district.
Students at Appleton East High School express their struggles with attendance, citing early start times and hectic after-school schedules as primary factors affecting their ability to focus in class.
Sophomore Jo Buck says the mental toll of early mornings on students' ability to engage effectively during school hours.
AASD is actively working on multiple initiatives to tackle the attendance issue, including mentorship programs, student attendance teams, and awareness campaigns aimed at emphasizing the importance of regular school attendance.
The district currently spends $350,000 on attendance positions.
When asked about dissolving the truancy court back in 2018, Superintendent Greg Hartjes said,
Truancy court was not an Appleton Area School District function. So we don't have as a district any jurisdiction over that. So it's up to the city to have a citation. And then it's up to the city to work with the county in terms of how to adjudicate that citation,” he said. “But it has to be enforced at the local level. And so certainly that may be contributing to our challenges here in Appleton,” Hartjes continued.
The district has generated nine ideas through committee work, albeit many facing barriers due to associated costs, such as adding an attendance coordinator for the elementary schools and increasing transportation.
As AASD continues its efforts to combat absenteeism, the combined approach taken by both students and the district is a step toward finding a solution.