Excused and unexcused absence policy

Every day, FCPS is required to record the attendance of students. However, there are excused absences and unexcused absences. 

According to the Attendance Policies page on the FCPS website, students can be absent (excused absence) for: 

  1. Any form of illness (Including COVID reasons) 
  2. Medical procedures that cannot be scheduled outside of school hours
  3. Religious and cultural observances
  4. Civic engagement (for middle school and high school students, once a year) 
  5. Funerals 

Parents are expected to report student absences to the school through phone or email. 

“An excused absence is if you’re sick, or there’s a doctor’s appointment, or if there’s a funeral, or if there’s something deemed by the principal legitimate for being out,” said Ms. Veronica Delaney, one of the staff members in the front office at RCMS, who is in charge of attendance. “Unexcused is a soccer tournament, or family travel, or something that is not academic or health-related.”

For excused absences, teachers have an obligation to help students make up the work that they missed. For unexcused absence, this is not the case, as it is “unexcused.” 

“For an unexcused absence it’s considered an unexcused leave,” said Ms. Donna Clark, a science teacher on the Voyagers team. “Teachers are under no obligation to give the student the work that they missed.”

According to the Attendance Policies webpage: “If parents are aware of a future absence, such as a full day absence for a civic engagement activity (middle or high school) or a cultural observance, they may contact the school to report the absence and related date.” 

Ms. Delaney agrees with this. “Students need to know if they are not in school, then a teacher shouldn’t have to do extra work for them.” 

“For me, there’s nothing that can be done if the absence is unexcused,” said Ms. Clark. “In science, we need to be a little stringent because it’s a lab-based class. We can’t keep labs set up for students to come and make up whenever because we’re setting up for another lab.”

However, depending on the class and teacher, Ms. Delaney advises students to always check Schoology and talk to the teacher ahead of time. “If the teacher has something available then they can do it,” she said. 

“There is only so much time in a school day and time at home for teachers,” said Ms. Clark. “So we have to do what’s called triage, and focus on the students that are here.”

“If your family wants to take a vacation, go, have fun, if the obligation is important,” said Ms. Clark. “I respect that decision. There are always consequences; positive and negative: you get to have fun, have an adventure of a lifetime… but just know what school work is going to be missing. And that’s a life decision. That’s how life works.”

Civic engagement is also on the list of excused absences. 

Ms. Delaney describes civic engagement as “an outside activity with a non profit or political activity that has to be signed off and approved by the organization.”

Students get only one excused absence for civic engagement.

“If you miss school, you’re missing out on an education,” Ms. Delaney said. So try to be here whenever you can and if you’re going to miss for whatever reason, make sure your parents send a note to the attendance line so we know why you’re out.”