Chronic absentee rates decline at both East Providence middle schools

Percentage is cut by just about half at Martin, Riverside

By Mike Rego
Posted 11/19/23

EAST PROVIDENCE — Absenteeism has been a bane of the East Providence School District in recent years, the percentage increase up to nearly 10 percent of the entire population on a reoccurring …

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Chronic absentee rates decline at both East Providence middle schools

Percentage is cut by just about half at Martin, Riverside


EAST PROVIDENCE — Absenteeism has been a bane of the East Providence School District in recent years, the percentage increase up to nearly 10 percent of the entire population on a reoccurring basis since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Central Office and administrators at each of the department's 11 buildings have been attempting to curb the rising numbers, which went from just around 7 percent pre-pandemic to the current double-figure tally as of the close of the 2021-22 term.

The School Committee along with Superintendent Dr. Sandra Forand and her staff recently reviewed the district's attendance policy, the former giving final approval to a revised set of guidelines at its Tuesday, Nov. 14, meeting.

According to a recent statement co-signed and issued by Forand, School Committee Chairperson Jenni Furtado and Mayor Bob DaSilva, East Providence's daily attendance figures fell from 93.1% in 2018-2019 to 90.8% in 2021-2022, As the trio noted in the release, though that figure may appear to be rather benign, in the '21-22 for instance, students in the district were in arrears nearly 20,000 days of instruction based on a formula of 5,000 students x 2.3% x 180 school days.

In response, school administrators and the Committee came up with a revised 11-point policy, which reads as follows:

  • 1. All absences, tardies and early dismissals are recorded and reported as unexcused unless an appropriate excuse is provided in writing. See definitions for excused and unexcused absences.
  • 2. A parent/guardian is required to call the school to report each day their child is absent. Parent permission, in and of itself, is not recognized as a legitimate reason for absence. The school’s automated system will attempt to contact the parent/guardian regarding absences; however, this contact does not imply that such absences are excused.
  • 3. Students absent more than 10% of the school year at any given time are considered chronically absent. This includes tardies and/or early dismissals. The principal and/or designee will contact the parent/guardian to notify them of the attendance concerns and provide a copy of the attendance policy for their review.
  • 4. Following two (2) absences per month or six (6) absences per quarter, the school will: implement the decision rules as it applies to attendance. Please refer to decision rules in the definition section below.
  • 5. Following ten (10) absences per school year, a parent/guardian meeting will be scheduled and/or a referral could be made to the Attendance Office for a pre-truancy meeting.
  • 6. Appointments with doctors, dentists, or any other healthcare provider will be considered an excused tardy or dismissal when a note from said provider is submitted to the school. Whenever possible, appointments with doctors, dentists, or healthcare providers should be made at times other than during the school day. Note: When attending an annual check up, the student can either be excused early, or be brought back to school, but should not be out for an entire day.
  • 7. All students with any unexcused absence on the day of a school-related activity (e.g. dance, play, sports) may not attend or participate in that activity.
  • 8. Students who are tardy in grades K-5 must be accompanied by a parent/guardian to the school office to sign in for the day.
  • 9. A written request for early dismissal for medical or family reasons signed by the student's parent/guardian must be presented to the first period classroom teacher or office on the day of the early dismissal; only those individuals eighteen years of age and older specified on the Emergency Contact List may pick up a student. Parental phone calls requesting an early dismissal must be approved by the Principal/Designee. This request must contain the date, time, reason for dismissal, telephone number for verification and parent/guardian signature.
  • 10. A student who has excused absences must contact the teacher within two days of his/her return to school for make-up work. Make up work due to absence, tardy or early dismissal for students shall be allowed. Upon the student’s return to school, it will be up to the student at the secondary level and/or the parent at the elementary level to seek out the teacher for the missed work. Each student will have one day for each day missed to make up the missing work, unless otherwise accommodated by the teacher.
  • 11. Student absence from class for purposes of family travel or vacation is a loss of valuable class time and is not condoned. Note: this time counts toward chronic absenteeism. Makeup work see above No. 10.

(DEFINITIONS — Excused Absences: Includes a student’s participation in an approved school-sponsored activity, documented college visits, suspension days, religious holidays, bereavement, a doctor-excused illness or injury, (doctor’s, dentist’s or other healthcare provider's written excuse must be submitted on the following day the student returns to school no later than two (2) school days following the absence), a school nurse-teacher excused illness or injury, court appearance, military deployment event or dismissal from school by school Principal or designee. Parent permission, in and of itself, is not recognized as a legitimate excuse for absences. Excused absences count towards attendance policy limits.

Unexcused Absences: Includes, but not limited to any absence in which the student and/or parent/guardian fails to comply with the District’s attendance policy and procedures and includes any and all absences not listed as excused absences above. Unexcused absences count toward attendance policy limits

Tardiness: Being tardy is defined as arriving after school begins. Students arriving by bus who are delayed are not considered tardy. Parents/guardians, as well as, students should know the start and end time of their respective school day. Tardy days will follow the same guidelines as excused and unexcused absences; Early Dismissal: An early dismissal is considered any time when the student is not able to complete the full day of school. Early dismissals will follow the same guidelines as excused and unexcused absences.

Chronic Absenteeism: A student is considered chronically absent when they are purposely out of school without cause and have missed 10% of the school year.)

East Providence is far from alone in the struggle to get and keep kids in classrooms. According to numbers released by the Rhode Island Department of Education during the just completed 2022-2023 school year, approximately 28.9% of students state-wide were chronically absent, which again sounds good but it also follows a recent high of 34.1% from '21-22. In city, the chronic percentage from last year was 1,390 of its 5,052 total student population or 27.46%.

At last week's meeting while giving the Committee an update of activities at their buildings, the principals at the district's two middle school's — Martin's Laurie Marchand and Riverside's Dr. Julie Giangiulio — both broached the attendance issue, specifically those chronically missing school.

(By the aforementioned definition, chronic absenteeism is when a child misses over 18 days per term.)

Each have experienced a dramatic fall in the number of so-called chronically absent pupils, nearly slicing the percentage in half in both cases.

At Martin, the percentage of chronically absent students through the first quarter of the 2023-24 term is 15%, a significant decrease from a high of what was at one time 30.7%

Said Marchand, "We're incredibly proud...We really celebrate this every single day. We have a lot of gains to make and room to grow, but we will celebrate that."

At Riverside, the percentage has been trimmed slightly more than half over the same time period, from 28% to 15%

Said Giangiulio of her building's drop, "Like Martin, we're really proud of that."

Both principals said they and their teachers have been stressing the importance of daily attendance to students, parents and guardians, and have attempted to create more and better dialogue around the subject.

Neither attendance figures at the elementary buildings nor at the high school were broached at last week's Committee, but the superintendent indicated she was pleased with the numbers coming from Martin and Riverside as well as the district as a whole. 

Said Forand of the improvements at the middle school level, "Those are great numbers as far as chronic absenteeism goes. I was looking at the numbers in the district today, so keep up the great work."

(Updated, Tuesday, Nov. 21, 10 p.m.) Reached just before the holiday last week, Principal Bill Black provided a positive update, noting the high school's rate had dropped by 7% or approximately 47 fewer students were chronically absent compared to this time last year.

According to the most recent RIDE figures for '22-23, EPHS had 667 students chronically absent of its 1,654 total enrollment of 40.44% last term.

2023 by East Bay Media Group

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email