Will Belmont High students skip taking Senior Ditch Day?

Belmont High School seniors who assume they have a free pass to be absent from class during their final year in school might find themselves absent from graduation ceremonies as well. Students might also be barred from attending Senior Prom and Grad Night under a new school policy intended to reduce absences, said Belmont assistant principal Stephen Koffman. While Senior Ditch Days are a tradition, some students at Belmont, which draws kids from Angeleno Heights, Echo Park and elsewhere, have taken that concept to the extreme.

“We have kids that are absent every single day or that are absent one or two periods every single day,” said Koffman, who has worked at Belmont for four years. “Senior Ditch Day does not mean Senior Ditch Semester. We want them to finish on a strong note.”

The Senior Attendance Policy, which was announced in February and applies to about 300 Belmont seniors, works this way:

• Students with 5 full-day absences (or 30 class periods) will not participate in Grad Nite.
• Students with 10 full-day absences (or 60 class periods) will not participate in the Senior Prom.
• Students with 15 full-day absences (or 90 class periods) will not be allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony.

The tougher stance on attendance is part of a new set of reforms Belmont has rolled out in recent semesters to improve test scores and reduce drop outs and expulsions, Koffman said. Those with good attendance are rewarded with pizza parties and other benefits, he said.

Koffman said he’s already noticed an improvement in attendance but did not have any statistics. He said the policy will eventually be expanded to the lower grades as well.

“We wanted to reinforce the concept that school is important all the way through graduation … and to set to the tone for undergrads that they will be held accountable for their attendance and behavior all the way through school.”

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