As the SouthCoast is grappling with a second wave of COVID-19, Old Rochester Regional High School is changing the way it tracks student attendance.

Beginning immediately, students that find themselves in a quarantine status will have the opportunity to be marked "remote present" instead of "absent" if they are unable to attend school in person. Students will be able to participate in their hybrid in-school days from home by logging into their teacher’s videoconference, participating in check-ins and completing makeup assignments.

"At times it felt like we were talking out of both sides of our mouth," ORR Principal Mike Devoll said. "We're encouraging students to follow the guidelines, but then saying, 'Hey, we're worried about your attendance.'"

ORRHS via Facebook
ORRHS via Facebook

The high school feels like this is an intermediate step to meet families who might be struggling with COVID in the home.

"We know you need to be quarantined, and we want to help educationally, as well," Devoll said.

Towards the end of the last school year, the Massachusetts Department of Education completely disregarded attendance; however, Devoll says that is not the case this school year.

"The state is in a much different place right now," Devoll said. "They're still holding schools accountable for attendance, but they are providing for what we call 'remote present'."

"Remote present" means a student would not be physically in the building, but they are engaged with learning that day. There is no difference between being marked "remote present" from home and being marked "present" while in the building.

Should the state make a change in its attendance policy? Devoll thinks it should.

"I think attendance during a pandemic is something you really need to look at carefully," he said. "It's not a typical year. If you're going to hold us accountable like you would a typical year, that would be tricky."

Currently, the Department of Education classifies a student as chronically absent on their 18th absence of the school year.

"If a student is in a quarantine situation, they're going to get to 18 pretty quickly," Devoll said.

The school will go back as far as September 16 to change attendance codes for all COVID-related absences.

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