Attendance policy raises accessibility concerns

Dara Fisher and Adina Saks

The recently updated Communications High School attendance policy states that students will be denied course credit if they are absent more than 15 days in the school year or 10 days in a semester. Current and previous students at CHS
have found that the policy does not leave much room for mental and physical limitations.

Junior Nicole Sandvik of Manalapan is one of the many students who continuously worries about their attendance records.

“Since coming to CHS, I haven’t missed a day of school, despite being tired and drained,” Sandvik said. “If you miss a day, then you have so much work that it’s impossible to keep up with what’s going on. It’s easier to go to school, even if you don’t want to, because either way you’re going to be overwhelmed.”

The attendance policy may not be accessible for those with physical limitations either. Former CHS student and current junior in the Time4Learning homeschool program Millana Young left CHS, as she was unable to regularly attend school due to a medical condition.

Young was diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus, an autoimmune disease that causes intense pain as well as a weakened immune system.

“I slept constantly, was always exhausted and it was really hard to be in school like that,” Young said. “I absolutely found it easier to work from home, because the added pressure of being presentable and acting like I was fine wasn’t on my shoulders.”

With absences piling up, Young had frequent meetings with the school nurse, Dorothy Condon, and later on met with Principal James Gleason.

“I had doctor’s notes for almost all of my extended absences, and not once was I exempt. All of them were counted against me, with zero concern for the days I’d spent running for blood work and trying new medications,” Young said. “It was really disheartening.”

Young chose to leave CHS on her own, claiming it was the stressful environment that caused her departure.

“I think the worst thing about the attendance policy is that it makes the student body feel powerless,” Young continued. “Especially when you’re sick long-term, you already are at rock bottom. Tack onto that pounds of pressure from a place that’s supposed to support you and look out for your best interest. It’s crippling. It destroys you.”

Junior Ella Weiss of Tinton Falls agrees that the attendance policy can be difficult to strictly follow. While the stress that comes along with an absence can be overwhelming, Weiss believes that missing school for mental health purposes outweighs this.

“There were a few times where I just couldn’t wake up in the morning and I needed to stay home,” Weiss said. “I think it’s important to have the option of taking a mental health day, but I often do feel pressured to go to school even when I’m not feeling well.”