HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Fewer students showing up to school prompted Hays CISD to change its attendance policy.

This school year, the district decreased the number of consecutive days a student can be absent without giving notice to the district.

“Anyone who sort of disappears, if you will, on us for five days, and they’re gone, we can un-enroll them,” Hays CISD spokesperson Tim Savoy said.

Previously, the rule was 10 days.

“If you have to be out for whatever reason, and you let us know, then you’re not going to be taken off the books. This is just for people who we cannot reach after multiple attempts to try to reach,” Savoy said.

What prompted this?

Hays CISD said it’s making this change because it noticed more empty chairs in the classroom over the years.

“Our average daily attendance before the pandemic, it was about 95%, 96%,” Savoy said. “Since the pandemic, understandably, it’s dropped a bit. It’s down to around 93%.”

Savoy said that impacts how much money they get from the state since Texas school districts are funded based on attendance and not enrollment.

“We’ve calculated that every one percentage point that our attendance is lower is about a million and a half dollars in operating,” he said. “The lower the attendance rate, the less money we get back from the state.”

This policy, Savoy said, is more geared toward situations where people move away from the district and don’t notify them.

“Their cell phone or their phone numbers change, or their emails bounce back, or they don’t contact us and let us know that they’ve moved or anything that’s going on,” Savoy said. “Then every person you have on there, it takes a little piece away from that average daily attendance.”

Can a student re-enroll?

Still, Savoy said even if a student is removed because of their attendance, they can come back.

“We take them off the books a week goes by and they say, ‘Hey, we didn’t leave. We just didn’t get a chance to tell you something.’ The worst thing that happens there is they just go back through the enrollment process, which, you know, it’s a little bit of paperwork,” he said.

When it comes to enrollment, Hays CISD said it has 1,000 more students compared to last year.

The district said it supports moving toward enrollment-based funding versus attendance.

“We care about the money to the extent that we’re able to give raises to the best teachers in Texas so they can provide the best educational experience,” Savoy said.