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Update: Students, parents dispute new attendance policy 

This story was updated on Wednesday, April 28. 

By Megan Wehring 

HAYS CISD — When Hays CISD announced a new attendance policy over the weekend, some students and parents shared their disagreement at the Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday.

Hays CISD implemented a new policy that at least 68.4% of students must physically attend class for at least eight days each during the last six weeks. This would qualify the district to receive hold harmless funding of $7 million. Parents and students are calling the new policy unfair for virtual learners to change their schedule that has been the same all year.

“That’s just not fair, to suddenly within two days to make them have to shift,” said Stephanie Jamail, Hays High School (HHS) parent. “They are saving for college and they are saving for their adult life. I think we should give them credit, not penalize them and make them take these tests.”

Jamail added that she, along with several other parents, has experienced communication issues with the district as her children were listed as in-person learners when they were doing virtual. 

Some parents also addressed that their kids work during the time of class time and they would need a more flexible schedule. 

Senior Isabel Gonzalez said working students will not benefit from the new attendance policy. 

“I have set a schedule to do all of my assignments while still going to work almost every day of the week,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t know why I’m going to be punished for not attending in-person school when I can do the work from home.”

Senior Michelle Padilla agreed that every student’s situation is different and virtual learning is better for some. 

“Some of us can’t make it in-person,” Padilla said. “I have a job that closes at 6:30 so they can not work around my schedule. The sudden change is ridiculous.”

All in-person and virtual students must not be absent more than three days between April 26 and May 24 to be eligible for semester exam exemptions, according to chief communications officer Tim Savoy. Virtual students have to sign in depending on what their teacher requires for attendance. Students who selected in-person have to attend in-person to qualify for exemptions.

Each campus is offering a different exam exemption policy and incentives to bolster attendance.

Hays High School semester exemption policy (screenshot from HHS website).

Superintendent Dr. Eric Wright clarified that asynchronous students can still complete their coursework at their own pace on their own time, but they may not qualify for incentives depending on their specific campus.

“We are not taking that away from anybody,” Wright said. “They can still do that. But they just won’t qualify for test exemptions, it sounds like. … They don’t have to change anything but if they want to make the incentives, they can.”

At the end of the meeting, Trustee Meredith Keller compared the attendance and hold harmless situation to a trickle-down effect because it is impacting everybody in the district.

“I actually just feel terrible for everyone involved,” Keller said. “It’s a really lousy place to be. When I listen to students who come up here and say, ‘I’ve been working full time and I make straight A’s.’ That kid did everything that anyone could possibly ask of them.”

HHS principal David Pierce encourages parents to contact him with any concerns they may have for their student. 

“We are working with our kids on a case-by-case basis,” Pierce said, “to try to do what’s right and try to get them to school if we are able to do so.”

Students and parents should check with their specific campus with any questions or concerns.

About Author

Megan Navarro (formerly Wehring) graduated from Texas State University in May 2020 with a bachelor's degree in journalism and mass communication. In June 2020, she started a summer internship at the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch through the Dow Jones News Fund and Texas Press Association. She then earned her way to a reporter position later that summer and now, she serves as the editor of the newspaper. Working for a small publication, Navarro wears multiple hats. She has various responsibilities including managing a team of reporters, making editorial decisions, overseeing social media posts, fact checking, writing her own articles and more. Navarro has a heart for storytelling and she believes that journalists are equipped to share the stories that are important to the community.

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