Parents, educators discuss district absence policy concerns

On Thursday concerned parents met with members of the Horry County School District and various principals to discuss the number of unexcused absences elementary students are allowed during a school year.

Karen Fowler, Horry County Schools' coordinator of attendance, said the state law says if an elementary student has three consecutive unexcused absences or five total, the student is placed on an Attendance Intervention Plan, also known as AIP.

Parents expressed their concerns about AIP and have even created a petition to revise it. The petition currently has around 1,400 signatures.

Nicole Couilliard, a parent of three children, two at Ocean Bay Elementary School and one going to Ocean Bay Middle School, says the program is too strict and not realistic.

Couilliard wants the district to allow students ten unexcused absences before being put on an AIP program. She also is asking for the program to run per school year and not through a calendar year.

"Once your child gets on that AIP program, they can't be late for school, they can't be absent, they can't even be dismissed early without getting a doctors note and that's a huge issue for a lot of families," Couilliard explained.

She says it's not feasible to bring a child to the doctor's office every time they don't feel well.

Fowler said the policy is a state law, but there is some leeway.

"We are to work in conjunction with the parents and with any members that are there to make sure that we have a plan that works for the student, and is in the students best interest, and works for all parties involved," Fowler said.

Fowler said the next step is to improve training for staff and more effectively communicate when writing and issuing an AIP.