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Posted 10/30/19 (Wed)


By Neal A. ShipmanFarmer Editor


As the enrollment has continued to grow in Watford City’s schools, the McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 is facing a very serious challenge when it comes to educating the record number of students that it is seeing each year.
That challenge isn’t from having enough qualified teachers in the classrooms or from not having the necessary funding to provide a quality education. Rather, the challenge facing the school district is dealing with an unusually high absentee rate that puts hundreds of students at risk of not receiving the education that is required by the state of North Dakota.
Last year, on any given school day, there was an average of 143 students absent from classes at Watford City schools. And this year, the level of absenteeism isn’t much better. According to school district attendance records from the start of this school year through Oct. 23, the elementary school (kindergarten through fifth grade) absentee rate was 6.5 percent, while middle school (grades 6 through 8) showed an absentee rate of 6.1 percent. At the high school (grades nine through 12), the daily absentee rate was nine percent with the freshmen class missing the most school days with a 10.2 absentee rate.
Those staggering absentee numbers have not only been a wake-up call to the school district’s administrators that they need to develop programs to help these at risk students, but more importantly they need to be alarming to the parents who are not making education a priority for their children.
Parents who choose to take long vacations during the school year or allow their children to have multiple unexcused absences from school are putting their children at risk of not advancing to the next grade or not graduating from high school.
 The McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 can only do so much when it comes to educating students when the children are in classes. Students have to want to learn the subject matter that is being taught.
But when those students aren’t even showing up for school, the challenge of educating them becomes even more difficult.
Currently there are 48 students, kindergarten through eighth grade, who have not met the district’s attendance policy and are at risk of not advancing to the next grade. And just two months into the school year, there are 10 to 15 high school students who have lost class credits that are needed for graduation due to unexcused absences.
A good education is the key to every child’s future. Whether they simply want to go into the workforce after high school or they choose to attend college or a trade school, a high school diploma is essential.
But unfortunately for some students, their lack of attending school is going to be an issue not only today but in the future.
As Steve Holen, district school superintendent, says “If the students aren’t in school, we can’t educate them. We at least have a fighting chance to educate them when we get them in a classroom seat.”