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Hamburg High School students may think twice about skipping classes next semester.

A new attendance policy, the school's first, will debut Feb. 1 and targets students who miss more than 27 classes in a 40-week course and those who miss more than 14 days of classroom instruction in a 20-week course.

The new policy, approved, 5-1, by the School Board Tuesday night, prohibits violators from taking final exams in those courses. Trustee Eileen Rucker reiterated her earlier criticisms of the policy as being too punitive and cast the sole no vote.

As part of the policy, which Mrs. Rucker objected to, teachers have discretion about whether to allow students to make up work they missed.

Mrs. Rucker vehemently opposed the policy for not allowing students the chance to take the exam, despite a high number of illegal absences.

"I have a real hard time not allowing them to take the exam," she said, also noting she was upset at leaving makeup work at the teacher's discretion.

Mrs. Rucker said she has heard staff in faculty rooms complain that they can't wait to get rid of a certain student by the end of the year.

However, Superintendent Peter Roswell said most reaction to the policy has been supportive. He also noted that by most local standards, it is liberal with the 27 absence rule, since many districts cut it off around 15 to 18 absences.

Board Vice President Mark Walling praised the initiative.

"I think an attendance policy is a good idea," he said. "If we let them slide while they're in the school system, we're not doing them any favors."

The high school's attendance rate is 93 percent, which leaves room for improvement, administrators noted last month.

Students are allowed to request a review of their absences if they exceed the limit, but it is restricted to questions concerning the tabulation of recorded absences and making sure that rights of students have not been violated. Beyond that, there will be no further review.

"I would hope the review process is given fair play, if a parent questions the process," Trustee Steven Hanson said.

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