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Attendance poor in days shaved off of school break

Attendance was paltry the past two weeks at schools that shaved time off their spring breaks to compensate for time lost to the October storm and the occasional winter snow day.

"In the last five years, it was absolutely the worst attendance day we've had," Frontier High School Principal Michael Baumann said of April 5, a scheduled day off that district officials recently switched to a half-day.

A little more than half the school's 1,700 students attended on the day before spring break, he said. High school classes on April 5 were abbreviated to 18 minutes apiece, a factor that apparently fueled the notion that it wouldn't be worthwhile to come to school. The Class of 2007, in fact, declared it Senior Skip Day.

Things weren't much better in Lancaster, where fewer than two-thirds of Lancaster High School's 2,007 students came to school on Thursday. On Friday, only 56 percent of the students attended.

In the lower grades, things were somewhat better, with 72 percent of students district-wide attending school.

"We expected some absenteeism," said Interim Superintendent Edward J. Myszka. "We did receive phone calls from parents, saying that they have family plans. The school district understood that, but the youngsters have to make up the work."

Williamsville reinstated classes on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Superintendent Howard S. Smith said district-wide attendance averaged nearly 80 percent -- compared to the typical attendance rate in the mid-90s -- making those days the most lightly attended since he's been in the district.

At the high school level, only about two-thirds of the students came to school, he said. Middle school attendance in Williamsville was around 80 percent. Elementary attendance was as high as 86 percent Thursday and Friday.

Williamsville was among the first districts to announce its plan to make up days lost in October. District officials had, in fact, designated days during the April break as days that would be reinstated if too many snow days were used.

The superintendent said he thought the long lead time enabled some people to adjust their travel plans.

"The make-up days were included in the school calendar," Smith said. "Right after the October storm, many people changed plans so they could be here [this week]."

Not long after the October storm, Frontier officials decided to reinstate two days during the February recess. Attendance on those days was relatively good. "I think there was more than enough lead time we were reinstating those days," Baumann said. "Parents had enough time to change plans."

The decision to turn April 5 into a half-day, though, wasn't reached until the third week in March, shortly after the new superintendent, Ronald G. DeCarli, realized Frontier was one class day short of the 180 required by the state.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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