MARLBOROUGH – How do you keep students in school?
It’s a problem facing school systems across the country, and it’s no different in Marlborough Public Schools (MPS).
According to MPS Superintendent Mary Murphy, 30.7% of all students were absent from classes for more than 18 days, or “chronically absent,” during the 2022-23 school year.
Among the reasons – parents not sending their children to school and risk catching COVID-19; or parents unable to pick up their children from school in case they get sick because of a lack of transportation.
For older students, it could be a case of them having childcare or work obligations.
“Post-COVID, the number [of absentees] doubled, even tripled,” said Murphy.
To help deal with the problem, MPS established attendance teams in each school, and it began encouraging teachers to reach out to families.
Academies and night school
For younger students, MPS is planning attendance academies during vacation weeks. February vacation will be for middle school students, while elementary school students will have an academy during April break.
In both cases, students who have been chronically absent will have a chance to make up some of that time with a combination of academics and activities, along with team building.
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“The idea is to get students re-engaged” with school, said Murphy.
Older students (age 17 and older) who take care of younger siblings while their parents work, or work full time, may attend one of the alternative high schools offered by MPS. These include the Hildreth Program and METAS Academy.
Murphy said the focus is on science, English language arts and math in order to help students to pass the Massachusetts Comprehensive System, which is a requirement to graduate from high school.
Murphy said that MPS is willing to work with families to keep students from dropping out entirely.
“We don’t want it to be negative. We don’t want it to be punitive,” she said. “How can we help?”
New director of finance and operations
The committee announced that MPS has chosen Matthew Wells as the next director of finance and operations.
According to Murphy, Wells, a Marlborough resident, has already begun working with the current director, Tom LaFleur, who is retiring at the end of this school year.
Wells has worked with several school administrations, including Norwood, Dedham, Norton and Northborough/Southborough.
He will officially begin on July 1.