Improving daily school attendance in the Neshoba County School District is at the top of Superintendent Dr. Lundy Brantley’s to-do list as the new school year started today.

“We have had a run of low attendance over the past few years,” Brantley said. “We are trying to build an awareness of how important coming to school and being on time is for our students.”

In recent years, Neshoba schools have 22 percent of its students in the district who are chronically absent, meaning they have 18 missed days or more. The problem is at its worst in grades K-8.

Did you know?

• Starting in kindergarten, too many absences can cause children to fall behind in school.

• Missing 10 percent (or about 18 days) can make it harder to learn to read.

• Students can still fall behind if they miss just a day or two days every few weeks.

• Being late to school may lead to poor attendance.

• Absences can affect the whole classroom if the teacher has to slow down learning to help children catch up.

This was part of a mass mail out that has been sent to the homes of Neshoba Central students this week, stressing the importance of good attendance.

In addition, Brantley and his staff will take every opportunity when meeting with parents and students to emphasize the importance of good attendance.

People may not realize it but the statistics clearly show how missed days can add up.

 For instance, if a student misses one day every two weeks, that adds up to 20 days per year. If the student misses one day per week, the student is missing 40 days per year. And so on.

As one administrator put it, you can’t teach an empty chair. It’s hard for a student to keep up with the curriculum and prepare for state tests when they aren’t at school. Low achievement affects the students and in the big picture, it pulls down the school district’s rating.

And, Brantley stressed, getting up and going to school every day builds a good lifetime habit. An employer expects his people to come to work regularly and one time.

“We know we need our kids here,” Brantley said. “It’s like at work. If you are going to be effective, you have to be at work. It’s the same way at school. If you are going to learn at the highest level, you have to be there.”