The Camdenton School District finds itself in similar territory below the 90-90 rule, though slightly better than Osage.

School of the Osage — like other area schools — is working hard to improve attendance at all grade levels. Not only does it benefit students to receive a complete education, schools earn extra points toward accreditation if they meet Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary (DESE) attendance requirements.

Schools strive to attain DESE's 90-90 objective, with 90 percent of the students attending school 90 percent of the time. If they don't, they are penalized on DESE's Annual Performance Report, a school standards report card.

SOTO finished the year with a 90-90 attendance rating of 83.5 percent, which was "below our goal," according to Superintendent Brent Depeé. "We will be penalized for that in our annual score card," he explained.

The attendance issue has been a challenge for school officials for well more than a year as attendance has slowly declined. In fact, Superintendent Depeé told the board during a meeting last winter that, “a recurring theme we find is that some parents don’t put a high value on education. They’re not making kids come to school. It’s a problem, and we have to do something about it.”

At the regular monthly board of education meeting in June, Depeé said he has challenged principals in all four buildings to develop ideas to boost attendance.

"We can sit here and hope and wish that it will get better, but until we actually do something about it and measure the results it's not going to get any better," he said. "I keep hearing over and over two things from our community and employers and that's that we need people to show up and pass a drug test, and we're working on both of those."

Depeé told the board some type of plan would be offered for consideration at the July 24 meeting, but urged board members and staff to offer suggestions.

One challenge facing schools is that DESE has changed the way attendance is calculated by moving to the 90-90 method rather than standard average daily attendance.

"This is such a complicated situation because we thought there was an easy solution, but we found there's like eight different problems," the superintendent said.

Board members have suggested some type of punishment for not attending school rather than being rewarded for showing up. It's also been suggested that a student's grade be lowered for poor attendance. Another suggestion was that a graduating senior who did not meet certain attendance standards be banned from walking across the stage at graduation.

One board member said during attendance discussions last winter that, “We can judge them as a school board, but we have very little control. We can stress the importance of grades or whatever, but there’s very little we can have an impact on. It’s still the parents who say they have to be here.”

Superintendent Depeé told the board in June that "we have some ideas and I think we're talking about things that are much more punitive. We need to incentivize our students and we have some ideas."

Year-end attendance at Osage was 83.5 percent. That means 83.5 percent of students district-wide attended school 90 percent of the time. By building, the Upper Elementary led the way with 90.9 percent attendance. Heritage Elementary had 85.9 percent attendance, the Middle School at 83.7 percent and High School 76.8 percent.

Camdenton

The Camdenton School District finds itself in similar territory below the 90-90 rule, though slightly better than Osage.

The Lakers attended school 88.07 percent of the time, and Superintendent Tim Hadfield says his district is also working toward improving that mark.

"We have given considerable attention to our attendance rate for several years," he said. "Historically, this has been an area we needed to improve. Over the past couple of years we have steadily improved our attendance rate. We have worked diligently to stress the importance of regular school attendance. We have also hired school social workers who have helped numerous families who might be experiencing attendance difficulties."

Camdenton secured a grant through Chief Juvenile Officer Tammy Walden to help fund a position in the district to work with families to improve student attendance. The district also revised administrative procedures to address the importance of attendance.

"We check attendance every three weeks and students meeting an attendance rate of 90 percent or higher are eligible for recognition. Failure to meet this expectation can cause students to lose certain privileges," Hadfield explained. "For example, at the high school a student could lose the privilege to park in the parking lot or attend school events such as dances or athletic events."

Camdenton High School students are permitted a maximum of eight absences per class per semester. High school students will not earn credit for a class if the student is considered absent nine or more times. If a student misses more than eight days they can appeal to a committee which reviews such issues.

"Our principals and staff members have worked very hard over the course of the past several years and we have seen some positive trends, but we need to continue to improve," Hadfield said.

Eldon

Eldon's 90-90 attendance is 85.8 percent.

"Attendance is something that we are always watching, Eldon Superintendent Matt Davis said. "We do well checks every day to make sure that our students are safe. We try to create an environment that students want to attend school."