A high percentage of Bellcate students come to Bellcate with a history of truancy challenges. At Bellcate School, we recognize that absences add up. Missing school just 2 days a month means a student misses 10 percent of the school year. Also, by 6th grade chronic absence becomes a leading indicator that a student will drop out of high school. Starting with our initial enrollment interview, Bellcate School emphasizes the importance and expectation of daily attendance to students and their parents/guardians. This transparency is important but it is often not enough to change long standing patterns of school avoidance. Bellcate School consistently addresses the following critical questions related to truancy prevention:
- Is our school a place where students want to be?
- Are our lessons and activities relevant and engaging.
- Are we supporting the whole student?
- Are we supporting the whole family?
- Do students see our school as their way to a better self and future?
In addition to actively and responsively creating a culture that positively answers these important questions…Bellcate walks the talk! Each and every morning we respond to every potential call out by morning meeting or at least by the end of first block. Our staff are not passive when a student attempts to call out. Bellcate staff have bought into the bigger picture related to attendance and actively problem solve the issue. More times than not, this process ends with Bellcate staff driving to a student’s house to pick up their student for first block. Bellcate School holds a morning assembly every morning to do roll call and to share daily student and staff news, announcements and highlights. This community touch stone routine creates a sense of accountability and belonging.
And finally, Bellcate has created an important school ritual that celebrates school attendance. Saben Littlefield, our Daily Operations Director, who is a stickler for attendance, has put a positive plan in place to honor student’s commitment to attendance. Saben created the “100 Day Club.” When a student reaches 100 consecutive days of attendance, we celebrate this achievement in a community assembly where the student is awarded a certificate and Bellcate Bucks to spend on gear at our online school store. And Bellcate Bucks is serious currency at our school! This month we honored our first inductee with a new milestone; 250 consecutive days. Prior to attending Bellcate, this particular student had missed 2 consecutive years of school before high school age. His award had extra special meaning given the dramatic change in his perspective and behavior related to coming to school. Congratulations!