No pass means school on Saturday

JDHS institutes hall monitors to cut down on truancy, tardiness

Posted: Friday, January 20, 2006

Juneau-Douglas High School students had better have a good excuse or a hall pass if caught roaming the halls during class hours starting next week.

Otherwise they'll be back at school on Saturdays.

In an effort to crack down on truancy and tardiness, JDHS will have staff "hall hosts" patrolling the school for skippers and stragglers, and they will issue Saturday school citations for students caught breaking the attendance policy.

"While the students are here in the hallways of our school, we want to make sure that they are in the classrooms," Principal Bernie Sorenson said. "There are some kids, from what we have discovered, who are actually attending the day but not attending the classes."

Sorenson said the school is not trying to "police" the students, but rather to help them "make the proper choice and go to class." She said the hall hosts will also work to get to know and build relationships with the students.

For each time a student is caught loitering in the halls without a pass containing the student's name, time, date and a teacher's signature, a one-hour Saturday school detention will be issued.

Oceanography teacher Clay Good, who has taught at JDHS since 1985, said truancy and tardiness have become noticeable in the last several years.

"The students have essentially taken over the campus with the vacuum of leadership that existed here over the last couple of years," he said.

"Things have been a little lax here over the years as we've been going through a number of changes of administration," he said. "Finally now, with the hope of some continuity with our administration, we wanted to start tightening up the ship a little bit."

Good said giving detention for skipping class is nothing new, but the new effort is returning to a standard that has been overlooked in recent years.

Sophomore Nathan Wolf, 16, said it's worth a try, but he isn't convinced it will keep students from skipping.

"People are still going to skip, they're just going to avoid teachers," he said. "I don't know if it will work or not. It could, but it's just going to be annoying."

Junior Danny Peterson, 16, said he thinks it may make students better manage their time to show up to class on time.

"People just skip because it seems like no one cares. So it's like, 'What's the point?'" he said. Maybe now, he said, people will say, "'Saturday school, suspension, I better not skip.'"

Junior Ty Schwinghammer, 17, said the biggest change the enforcement brings will be students showing up at the attendance office to get passes.

"It's not going to make them go to class all that much more," he said.

Sorenson said she hopes the new enforcement will ultimately lead to higher graduation rates. She said 90 percent of the dropouts at JDHS are freshmen, sophomores or juniors.

"If we can keep them in school through their junior year, almost all of them then end up graduating and succeeding," Sorenson said.

Good said the philosophy behind the new school enforcement isn't to go out and bust students.

"This is really about creating a better atmosphere in the school," he said.

Beginning Monday, the hall hosts will also be issuing one-hour detention citations for students caught littering on campus. Sorenson said the garbage left around, particularly after the lunch hour, has become a significant issue.

"There are huge piles of trash left in places and dropped as if it's the adults responsibility to clean up after them," she said.

Sorenson said she hopes there aren't too many repeat offenders, leading to overcrowding in Saturday school.

"We hope that one ticket will give them the reminder of, 'I don't want to do that again.'"

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