State school board adopts new attendance reporting rule

The Missouri State Board of Education voted Tuesday to approve a new "regular" attendance reporting rule, providing another method for school districts and charter schools to claim attendance for students who are provided instruction during quarantine.

The board approved the Attendance Hour Reporting emergency rule July 7, but because the emergency rule lasted only until February, the board had to submit a regular rule to replace it.

Tuesday's approval ensured there would be no lag between the date the emergency rule expired and when the "regular" rule went into effect. The rule will last the entire 2020-21 school year.

The new regular rule is the same as the emergency rule other than one slight adjustment that provides more flexibility for districts to meet the needs of students who are in quarantine.

The rule allows districts and charter schools to claim attendance for students who are learning remotely if the learning model meets standards for instruction and course content approved by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and is designed to address public health concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Before claiming attendance for blended learning models, the district or charter school must have an approved "Alternative Methods of Instruction - Extended (AMI-X) Plan."

DESE is required to give the opportunity for public comment on proposed regular rules, so it was published for comment in the Aug. 17 edition of the Missouri Register for 30 days. DESE received two comments during this period, both from Doug Thaman, executive director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association.

Thaman requested "instruction during quarantine" attendance reporting provisions apply to individual students as well as groups of students quarantined due to exposure through school activities.

Under current guidance, remote instruction provisions allow for attendance to be reported for individual students under quarantine.

However, "given the requirements of homebound instruction and the potential quantity of students impacted by quarantine as a result of COVID-19," the rule was changed to allow for "instruction during quarantine" attendance reporting to apply to individual students under an approved AMI-X plan.

Thaman also requested that virtual school students be allowed to complete their coursework on campus. No changes were made to the rule based on this comment.

DESE responded to this request saying that students completing virtual coursework receive an assumed 94 percent attendance rate for the course. They may take virtual courses on site at the discretion of the district or charter school, but the on-site attendance rate applies when that is done.