Students simply cannot learn if they are not in school. That is why leaders at Westbridge Academy take attendance seriously.
“On most days, the number of students absent from Westbridge Academy is in the single digits – and many of those are excused absences for reasons such as medical appointments or illness,“said School Principal, Dr. Anthony Hadzimichalis. Data show the school has a 90-93% daily attendance rate.
In an average month, more than 1/3 of Westbridge students have perfect attendance – a remarkable statistic since research shows rates of chronic absenteeism are higher among economically disadvantaged students and those with disabilities.
Westbridge takes this challenge on by understanding and addressing the root causes.
“The literature shows that students who miss school often stay home to avoid bullying, unsafe conditions, harassment and embarrassment, so we work hard to make sure that our school culture and climate reflects our core values, and that all students feel safe and respected,” Dr. Hadzimichalis added. “We truly are a “bully-free zone” and students know it.”
In other schools, students with social, emotional and behavioral disabilities routinely experience suspension at a higher rate than non-disabled peers, so leaders at Westbridge Academy minimize the use of such action.
“Students come to us for reasons of behavior and social challenges- they need to be here to learn. We work hard to avoid suspension of any kind whenever possible,” he said.
Sometimes, conditions directly related to a student’s disability – health and sleep issues, doctor appointments, and surgery – could cause absences.
“When our students experience illness, whether it is mental or physical, we provide coordination and wrap-around support to minimize the impact of school absence and ensure that the student is back in class as soon as possible,“ concluded Hadzimichalis.