CMS focuses on cutting down on chronic absences, keeping kids in classrooms

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools officials have said since the first day of the school year that they can’t improve reading and math scores if students are chronically absent.

“We know that the one for students to make sure they’re able to learn the material is that they’re actually in the seat and having that opportunity to learn the information that’s provided by the teachers,” said Matt Hayes, the CMS deputy superintendent.

Chronic absenteeism became a serious problem during the pandemic when students were still at home engaged in remote learning.

“It has improved since the beginning of the school year,” Hayes said. “Even with multiple things happening within our schools, as far as the flu and so forth, it has improved.”

Channel 9 obtained a report through a public record request detailing how many students have received 10 or more unexcused absences so far this year at each CMS school.

That is something Hayes said they try hard to prevent.

“(We are) really engaging our counselors that are in each of schools,” Hayes said. “(We are) talking with our teachers and with our principals and making sure that as soon as they start seeing those three days of absences, six days of absences, they’re sending letters home.”

At schools, such as Grand Oak Elementary School, McKee Road Elementary School and Park Road Montessori, there is not a single student that has gotten an unexcused absence.

“That’s just where you see that relationship between the teacher and the parent,” Hayes said. “Notes usually come a little bit easier to those teachers so they can go ahead and make those corrections.”


However, some schools are seeing high percentages of the student body with unexcused absences, including Turning Point Academy, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Academy and Julius Chambers High School.

“If it gets to an extreme case where we see that the family is not being receptive to that, then yes, those cases would move forward to the district attorney’s office so they can begin the process of looking at truancy,” Hayes said.

The goal is not to be punitive, he said.

“If a student misses 10 or more absences, whether excused or unexcused, they can potentially fail that course,” Hayes said. “What we do is we offer recovery time for our students in each of our high schools.”

Whether a student is in violation of the attendance policy depends on how many days they have missed versus how many straight days of learning they attend.

District officials said that so far this year there have been no truancy cases forwarded to the Mecklenburg County district attorney.

VIDEO: Parents who kept students from school after threats learn absences are unexcused

Jonathan Lowe

Jonathan Lowe, wsoctv.com

Jonathan is a reporter for WSOC-TV.