HAYS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Tracking attendance is a little different for many school districts this year who are juggling students both in-person and online.
Some families in the Hays Consolidated Independent School District said they are confused about whether or not their virtual learners are being counted. Some are seeing absences rack up for their students when they say their child has been checking in every day.
“Everything is just pretty much very hectic right now and very stressful,” said Brittney Cobler, a parent of four HCISD students.
Cobler and her husband spend their weeks working full time and, during their free time, checking in on their virtual learners in kindergarten as well as second, third and eighth grades.
“My grandmother does the virtual with my children, but, when we get home, it’s like we take over, as well,” she explained. “We want to see what needs to be done and if they’re even clicking on what they’re supposed to be logging into or not.”
Cobler said even keeping track of virtual attendance has been a struggle; she just spent Tuesday morning trying to figure it out with HCISD.
“Basically we have two processes and two systems that we’re merging together, one for virtual school and one for in-person,” HCISD spokesperson Tim Savoy said.
He said teachers can set up a prompt through Schoology that asks students to check-in for attendance.
However, he said even if that falls through or teachers don’t set up something, the software tracks any engagement until about midnight.
“There’s a little bit of a lag with those two systems syncing up overnight, so it may be the next day or the day after when it shows,” Savoy said.
In an email to parents Thursday, the school district said it could even take up to five days for attendance to be updated.
If parents think there is a bigger discrepency, Savoy urges them to talk to campus leaders, who should be able to cross-check attendance.
“What I would tell parents is, if you know your child is present and has been doing the work, to first start at the campus level with the attendance clerk,” Savoy said. “If they’re not able to help, you can also try our help desk for our technology Help Desk, or we have a centralized registrar’s office that basically handles all of the attendance and enrollment for our district, and you can reach out to them and we’ll get it fixed.”
After speaking with HCISD staff, Cobler says she still isn’t sure if her students’ attendance records are accurate but she hopes that communication will also be improved.
“There’s so many… unanswered questions,” she said.
In previous years, Savoy said the district averages an attendance rate of 92% to 97%. However, he did not have numbers Tuesday to share with KXAN for this year.
New TEA guidance indicates that the agency will use an average attendance from past years to calculate a school district’s funding. Districts are “held harmless” for the first two six-week reporting periods.