By LIBBY CLUETT
As schools prepare to open their doors to students Monday, there are a few things area students, staff and parents might want to note, largely based on laws passed in the 83rd Texas Legislature.
At Mineral Wells ISD’s regular August school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Jay Walsworth outlined revisions to the student and employee handbooks. The following are a few changes he said are in store.
There are several situations in which students are now allowed exemptions to compulsory attendance and for which, with the proper documentation, schools will not be penalized on their average daily attendance, or ADA. These instances include the following:
• Students of military families will now have more flexibility regarding some district and state requirements, based on Texas being a member of the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunities for Military Children. Also, Senate Bill 260 counts absences related to parent deployment as “days of attendance” for purposes of the district’s ADA funding. However, the law allows just five such absences per year and the bill describes the instances when students will be excused.
• Students can be exempt from classes if they have a therapy or mental-health appointment, including absences for recognized services for students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders. When the student arrives back at school, she or he must have a note from the health-care provider.
• Attendance exemptions also apply if a student in state conservatorship has a court-ordered family visitation or any other court-ordered activity, if it’s not practical to schedule the activity outside school hours.
• State law also allows exemptions to compulsory attendance requirements for several other types of absences if the student makes up all the work, including missing school for religious holy days or activities related to obtaining United States citizenship.
• Students can also serve as an early-voting election clerk, according to SB 553, for up to two days per school year.
• The state allows attendance exemptions for students who have children. Per House Bill 455, a student who is a parent can be exempt for a documented health-care appointment for their child, but the student must make up the work and must return to school with a note from the provider.