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Fairfax Schools To Send Attendance Alerts Sooner

Starting Monday, high schools and middle schools across the county will now email — in addition to call — after a student misses first period.

Parents of Fairfax County students who don't make it to class after saying goodbye at the door — or of those who decide a trip to McDonald's is better spent than a period of geometry — will now know sooner when their child misses class.

Fairfax County Public Schools announced a new attendance process Tuesday that will more quickly notify parents of middle and high school student absences by sending an email after first period. 

Starting Monday, all high school and middle school parents will receive a call and an email around 10 a.m. if their student didn't show for first period. 

They'll receive another call and email around 6 p.m., the county's practice.

It's a change driven largely by an effort to improve student safety, said Mary Ann Panarelli, the system's director of Intervention & Prevention services.

"It's an additional step in providing a layer of safety to the kids as well as earliery notification for the parents," Panarelli said.

The county's elementary schools have always issued early morning calls and emails to parents whose students aren't in class, or, may have forgotten to call them in as sick or absent. 

But while some high schools and middle schools had developed similar policies for letting parents know about absences, others were following the system-wide protocol: a phone call that went out around 6 or 7 p.m. 

Panarelli said the initial thought behind that practice, which has been in place for several years, was the call would be made at a time most families were home from school and work.

During a recent review of the system's attendance notification policy, Panarelli said, officials realized the policies indicated parents would be notified earlier in the day.

And from a student safety perspective, Panarelli said, it makes sense to notify parents earlier so if a student isn't in school, but should be, principals and parents can alert security and local police that something might be wrong.

Emails will also be able to reach parents who aren't readily available by phone, or may have their home number, instead of their cell number, on file for notifications. 

The change should indicate to parents that officials do regularly review practices to make sure they're in line with system policies and are being implemented correctly, Panarelli said.

Parents with questions should contact their school directly (in Oakton, either Oakton High or Thoreau or Luther Jackson middle schools). 

What do you think of the new attendance policy? Have you caught your student skipping school? Tell us in the comments.

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