The coronavirus outbreak has now placed Massachusetts into a state of emergency. One of the bullet points from Charlie Baker's announcement yesterday has seemed to be glossed right over. To me, however, it could play a major part in the containment of the virus. There has been a major shift in how the state will view missed school days.

There is a new decree from the state that schools will now have some leniency when it comes to attendance. Schools that are forced to cancel due to the coronavirus may not have to make up all of the days missed. The governor wants school districts to feel free to close down if they feel it is necessary to preserve health; therefore, regardless of how many days the district is closed, the school year won't extend beyond June 30.

Also, and this may be even more important, effective immediately student absences that occur after March 2 will not be counted. This is a 180-degree turn from where the school year had started.

Prior to the state of emergency, the Department of Education was not allowing students more than 17 days of absences. There were no longer differences between excused absences and unexcused absences. There were simply absences.

Throughout the year, students trending toward more absences than allowed would receive a letter home from the school. Many times these letters were sent with a wink and a nudge, but the letters were sent nonetheless. The letters would remind parents of the policy regarding absences and how important it was to adhere to the rules. Students that were absent more than the allowed number of days would run the risk of having to repeat the year.

As of this week, no one is counting absences any longer. The goal is to encourage students to stay home when they don't feel well to help curb the spread of the virus.

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