Happy new year and welcome back, Downey Unified families!

We are ready to start 2024 on the right foot, and one way of doing so is as simple as ensuring that your students are showing up to school! At Downey Unified, our mission is to see all our students graduate globally competitive and succeed in their endeavors. As they gain these significant capabilities when they are physically in their classrooms, ensuring they do not fall behind because of absences is extremely important.

Why Attendance Matters

When students are absent, they miss essential face-to-face instruction that is valuable to their overall grade-level learning and their academic and social-emotional development. As absences continue to add up, a student’s grades and test scores can be impacted significantly.

Students raising hands in class

According to the state of California, students who miss 10 percent or more — which is equivalent to two days each month — are considered chronically absent. In the last couple of years, absenteeism in K–12 public schools has increased significantly nationwide, with more than 25 percent of students chronically absent.

Not attending school, whether caused by excused or unexcused absences, may be an early warning sign of poor academic outcomes, leading to an increased likelihood of dropping out and even lower chances for success after high school and into the workforce.

In addition to academic concerns, not attending school takes away from opportunities for students to connect with their peers through daily social interactions. The relationships they build with their classmates allow them to improve upon important social skills and experience benefits to their overall health and well-being — factors that are not as easy to catch up on as homework and daily assignments.

While pre-pandemic chronic absences were more of a concern at the high school level, the crisis is now impacting more middle and elementary school students. Healthy attendance habits start as early as TK and kindergarten, so families need to encourage their students and help them make it to school each day. A student who is sick should stay home until he or she is well enough to return, and the family needs to contact the child’s school to provide notification of the absence.

As the new semester begins in January, schools, families, and communities must work together to encourage students to be present in their classrooms and finish the school year on a strong note. We want all our students in Downey Unified to take advantage of the outstanding educational opportunities available, starting with attendance.