Getting some students to attend classes will be a focus of the Neosho R-5 School Board in the coming school year.

Student attendance was one of several issues of discussion before the R-5 board of education at a recent study session prior to this month’s regular school board meeting, scheduled for Monday evening.

Dan Decker, superintendent, opened the discussion by saying that a large number of students are missing many school days. He said some are out of school between 30 and 50 days, and some even more. Decker said the district must put some teeth in its policy, “Because if your student is missing 50 days, there’s not much chance of them being passed to the next level.”

Doretta Fox, principal, Neosho Middle School, said one person at the school is responsible for tracking attendance exclusively. Fox said their worst case is a student that has missed over 60 days, and added that they couldn’t get the student into class to take the MAP test. Fox expressed an ongoing frustration with some families, as this is the second year of such problems with the same student, who has missed almost 150 days in those two years. She said the parents claim the student is sick, and concluded, “It’s these families who don’t see a value in education.”

Tim Crawley, assistant superintendent, noted that the prosecuting attorney can’t proceed on such cases when the parent shows any evidence of illness for the child. Darren Cook, principal, Neosho High School, said he needs a stricter policy.

“Doctors won’t sign off on ‘homebound’ education because they aren’t that sick,” Cook said.

Steven Douglas, board member, opined that all stakeholders needed to be brought into the conversation, including the prosecuting attorney, child services and the juvenile office. Glenda Condict, assistant superintendent, replied that they brought the various stakeholders together three years ago, to no avail.

With some kids missing a third of their scheduled time in school, Decker said it is hard as a district to promote those students and still maintain the integrity of what school is about. He said the new MSIP5 state school improvement program that grades school districts requires that “90 percent of our kids be in school 90 percent of the time.”

“Students will be allowed to miss 16 days in order to meet that requirement, and right now we’ve got a lot of kids who are missing a lot more days than 16,” said Decker.

Not only are the kids suffering, but Decker said the school district will take some hits “because we’re not meeting the attendance requirement.” He said the school district and the board must look at what can be done to partner with agencies within the community to help address that.

“But also what we can do as a school district to maybe put a little more teeth in our attendance policy so that parents see the urgency and the importance of  having their kids in school,” he said.

Decker said he wasn’t in Neosho when the outside agencies were involved with the same discussion with the school district a few years ago, and surmises that the effort lost steam. He said getting back together with those groups was a theme of the discussion “to refresh what we are all trying to do, and how each different agency and group can contribute to what we are trying to get accomplished and get a new plan and start out again.”

He said that will provide an opportunity for honest conversation about the issues the district is facing, and how the school and community can work together.

Current action items before the R-5 board of education’s 7 p.m. Monday meeting in the administrative center include approval of a bond issue. The school board determined during that recent study session that it would place the same $24 million issue to build a new junior high school that was defeated by voters in April on the August ballot, and will vote to make that official Monday.

Other current action items include the approval of an auction of surplus district property, a career center contract, and approval of the Southwest Missouri special services cooperative agreement. The consent agenda includes the acceptance of resignations and employment of personnel and approvals of 2014A policies and procedures, implementing moral recognition therapy, and the local compliance plan.

The school board will provide recognitions of students — as well as to the student, employees, and patrons of the month — and will hear reports on the guidance/counseling, and ESL programs; intramurals; yearbook/publications; spring sports/cheerleading programs; and the food service program.

The board of education will also be provided information on the budget, financial information/cash flow reports/investments, a proposed school sponsored target shooting team, a CSIP update and insurance information.

The school board will then move into closed session for consideration of real estate and personnel issues.