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EAST LONGMEADOW — During the East Longmeadow Public Schools mid-cycle presentations, school officials shared successes and areas of growth within the five schools concerning attendance rates and student support. Each school reported different approaches to these concerns.

At Mapleshade Elementary, absenteeism has dropped from 17.9% to 8%, Principal Conor Martin reported. While the school’s attendance rate is currently 95.1%, this rate would likely be higher if not for recent illnesses that led to multiple health-related absences, he said. In addition to the positive attendance rates, the school has also seen an increase in self-reported feelings of engagement, safety and school climate by students.

Similarly, Mountain View Elementary Principal Elaine Santaniello stated in her presentation that the school has continued to meet the state’s daily attendance goal of 95% despite a small drop in attendance since the fall. While reviewing the school’s student surveys, Santaniello concluded from responses that students did not fully understand bullying and that students “have a lack of communication skills with each other.” She stated that the school was looking into addressing this issue.

For Meadow Brook Elementary, Principal Renee Lodi explained that while the school was able to decrease its absenteeism rate from 18.4% in the 2022-23 school year to this year’s 12%, there continues to be concerns with absences for non-illness related reasons, such as family vacations. She cautioned that “we need to be very mindful of that” because it can increase absences quickly when combined with illnesses.
Another concern Lodi identified was an increase of students with chronic health issues and “social-emotional challenges.” She told the committee that the school has formed a “social-emotional learning program” in order to address the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, Meadow Brook hosted a schoolwide staff professional development on trauma support for students.

At Birchland Park Middle School, attendance was “amazing” during the 2022-23 school year and fall semester of the 2023-24 year, interim Principal Steve Pearson said. However, absenteeism has recently increased and 36.8% of these students have a “mental health component” to their absences, he said. To address this, the school is working on multiple initiatives, including offering long-term and short-term incentives for attending class and working with River Valley Counseling.

East Longmeadow High School Assistant Principal Gary Wright explained that the high school created an eight-member attendance team to provide individual support to students who are chronically absent. Additionally, the school has also worked to host listening sessions and assemblies to share students’ thoughts. However, despite this work, the school “fell short” of targeting the needs of low-income students, the presentation stated.

To offer greater support, Assistant Principal Anne Blain highlighted the Freshman Team of teachers. This program was created to support students’ grade 9 transition and divides students taking standard algebra between groups of teachers that can provide assistance with the students’ emotional, social and academic needs, according to the presentation. The team also helps to increase communication, Blain said.

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