School absences high

More than 280 students miss classes Thursday

— What do you get when you combine a touch of the flu bug, a pinch of strep throat, a handful of Winter Sports Club athletes and a dollop of extended holiday vacations?

School absence rates nearly triple the average.

Steamboat Springs School District teachers, staff and administrators returned from a 12-day winter break Thursday re-energized for the second half of the school year.

But as is often the case, many students failed to return for the short, two-day school week.

More than 280 students missed school Thursday and 275 were absent Friday.

Perhaps more surprising, 343 students didn't attend the district's four main schools on Friday, Dec. 20, the last day of classes before winter break.

About 100 kids are absent district-wide on a typical school day, school district secretary Diane May said.

"This is just the way it is," Superintendent Cyndy Simms said about the increase in absences following and preceding the break. "We accept the fact that parents make responsible decisions for their families."

Forty-two students missed school Thursday and 38 failed to show Friday at Soda Creek Elementary School. Secretary Tammy Farrell said the school has about 20 absences on a typical day.

Twelve percent, or 50, of Strawberry Park's 423 students were absent Thursday. Even more -- 53 students -- missed school Friday.

Strawberry Park secretary Marybeth Johnson said she was surprised by the absences -- she expected even more no-shows following the break.

"Not as many as I thought would be out," Johnson said. "(The absence rate) is way above average for just another school day, but not for the day after a break."

Johnson remembered up to 70 absences the day following last year's winter break.

"A lot of people extended their trips, the flu bug is still going around and a lot of the absences were pre-arranged before winter break," Johnson said.

Seventy middle school students were absent Thursday and 88 were absent Friday.

At the high school, 164 students failed to show Thursday and 96 were out Friday.

"We have a lot of sick kids out, Winter Sports Club has a lot of kids out and some are still on vacation," middle school secretary Cheri Daschle said.

State law mandates that school districts provide at least 175 instructional days for elementary students and 177 instructional days for secondary students. The two school days squeezed in around the winter break are needed to meet that requirement.

Simms said nobody wants to move the days by beginning the school year earlier or ending it later.

The old two-week winter break was shortened a couple of years ago to make room for a short mid-winter break in late February.

"Our role is to be open for business and to provide an excellent program for kids, and we do," Simms said. "We hope that parents will share our wishes for those days, but we understand if they choose to miss those days."

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