Absences high on first day back to school

NEWPORT BEACH — Cars lined up along Eastbuff Drive to drop off students at the Corona del Mar middle and high school campus Monday morning, despite the day being a federal holiday.

A planning oversight in the academic calendar, which was created three years in advance, resulted in classes resuming as normal Jan. 2 within Newport Mesa Unified School District, according to Daily Pilot archives.

"The District was very interested in closing schools on January 2, 2012 due to the many parent/student scheduling issues," wrote district spokeswoman Laura Boss via email to the Daily Pilot. "Despite our best efforts to negotiate a change to the Orange County Department of Education's recommended calendar with the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, we were unable to mutually agree on a solution to close schools on January 2nd."

Schools across the district averaged as high as nearly a quarter of students absent, according to tentative estimates Monday afternoon from Boss.

The estimates show that NMUSD elementary schools saw the highest numbers with 2,746 absences, or only 76.32% attendance. Middle schools saw 194 absences and high schools experienced 886 absences, or 94.07% and 87.21% attendance respectively.

Despite the relatively high turnout for the older students, many parents—who they or spouses had the day off themselves—were not pleased to foregoing holiday traditions Monday.

For La Canada-raised Newport Beach mother of three, Susan Rempel, it was a disruption to the second part of a family outing that she had been planning for weeks.

"I took them up to see the float being built because I thought that now they were old enough that they would think it was cool and maybe they could help out or volunteer," said Susan Rempel of taking her children, 15, 12 and 8, to see the La Canada float live in the weeks before the Rose Parade.

"Now we can't even see the parade," she continued. "We'll have to hope to catch it on replay."

Some students within the high school said they expected to see a lot of vacant chairs due to the holiday.

"It's just not right," said Corona del Mar High School junior Robby Weisman, 16, of the mandatory attendance Monday.

Weisman expected to see many of his peers in Advance Placement courses to be in class, but speculated that many parents would keep the younger students at home with family.

"AP classes are a big issue for seniors and juniors," Weisman explained. "It's nearing the end of the quarter and there's a lot of tests and studying coming up."

An ideal solution to the calendar oversight should have been making attendance optional, with students turning in what assignments they needed to and doing the rest of their work from home, Weisman said.

With exception of Veterans Day, the school board has the authority to choose to observe a federal holiday on a day other than the actual holiday, according to the email from Boss.

"It's a shame that once the oversight was realized, that it wasn't corrected," Rempel said. "It's caused needless stress for parents, upset for the children and it's unfair for the teachers to have to work when everyone else has the day off because it's a federal holiday."



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