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Kiski Area School District tries different approach regarding truancy

Emily Balser
| Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018, 11:54 p.m.

Kiski Area School District has been taking a different approach to dealing with student attendance and believes it's working.

Instead of going straight to district court with truancy issues, school officials have been working to make contact with the family and hold meetings to work out a way to ensure the students make it to class. The changes were a part of a pilot program with Westmoreland County.

The district has been so happy with the new approach that it's updating its attendance policy to reflect the changes.

The school board is expected to vote on the measure at its meeting Monday.

“It's designed to be less punitive and more getting people at the table to talk about their child's attendance,” Assistant Superintendent Jason Lohr said.

Lohr said the district tries to work with students as early as possible to set them on a path for success.

“I think it's always easier to talk to parents when you're sitting at a table and talking about solutions, rather than being reactive and taking a child to the magistrate,” he said.

The district bases its policies on suggestions from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

The state Department of Education also offers resources and guidelines, known as a “toolkit,” for districts on how to handle truancy including notifying parents.

“Family involvement is essential to keeping children in school,” according to the guidelines.

Lohr said trying to work with families first before taking legal action has lessened the stigma around truancy. He said the district still will take unresolved cases to the district judge as a last resort if the meetings are unsuccessful.

Board President Tamra Smail said going to the local court should be a last resort.

“We want to work with kids and work with their families to keep them in the classrooms,” she said.

Freelance writer George Guido contributed to this report. Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680, emilybalser@tribweb.com or via Twitter @emilybalser.

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