Attendance & Transportation

Attendance Policy

In order to achieve our ambitious mission, we must maximize our time with students in school every moment of every day. Regular attendance is mandatory. Families should not schedule vacations and non-emergency appointments during school time. Families should take advantage of the early dismissal on Friday, as well as holidays and school vacations, to schedule appointments and travel.

Absences

Absences will be “excused” for illness, verifiable family emergency, recognized religious holidays regularly observed by persons of the child’s faith, or (in rare instances) other reasons requested in writing by the parent/guardian and considered legitimate by the principal or designee. Per MNPS policies, these absences can only be counted as excused if written verification from the legal guardian is received in the main office within 24 hours of the student’s return to school. A doctor’s note or other official documentation is required for any absence period of 2 or more consecutive days. Notes from the doctor must come on official letterhead. It is imperative that families bring in written documentation for any school time missed on the first day of return. This is recorded in Infinite Campus (our student information system) and shared with the MNPS school district and state.

In order to be counted as present, a student must remain in school until noon. If a student comes to school, and must go home before 12:00 p.m., due to illness, then the student’s attendance status will be changed from “Present” to “Excused Absence.” Additionally, if a student arrives to school after 12:00pm, they will be marked as “Absent” pending documentation from the family.

All other absences, including those related to trips or vacations taken outside of school wide breaks, are considered “unexcused.”

After three unexcused absences, Explorers are flagged for truancy intervention. The school is then legally required to do our due diligence in order to ensure compliance with the TN State laws for student attendance.

According to T.C.A § 49-6-3001, all students under 18 are expected to be in school. All students under the age of 18 will be expected to comply with these laws and the school will follow procedures set out in TCA § 49-6-3007 if the student does not comply with the law. In cases of truancy, the Principal (or her/his designee) will investigate the situation. Explore Community School operates in compliance with TCA § 49-6-3007 requirements, which can include mandated reporting of truancy to appropriate state agencies.

Students are afforded rights under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act should their absences be related to a disabling condition.

Due Diligence for Truancy Prevention can include:

  • Telephone call(s)
  • Face to face meeting with the Registrar or member(s) of the Culture Team
  • Development of an attendance support plan
  • Follow-up mailed letter summarizing communications/action steps or attempts at caregiver outreach sent via certified letter
  • Outreach to state agencies if none of the previous interventions were successful in improving attendance outcomes

Tardies

Students are expected to be inside the school before 8:00 a.m. Students arriving to school after 8:00 a.m., even if it is before the start of morning meeting, are marked tardy. Tardies may be excused if a written note with a valid reason is received. In the case of chronic tardies (over 10% of school days or 10 unexcused tardies), the student’s family must attend an attendance conference with Explore administration. If unexcused tardies continue, a student is at risk of retention and additional action including, but not limited to, referral to an Attendance Officer, issuance of legal notices, and juvenile court intervention.

Any student arriving late to school must be escorted in by an adult and signed in with an Explore staff member to make sure students are safe and accounted for at all times. We will record their presence and update our attendance records as accordingly.

Explorers who arrive after 8:00am may not be served breakfast. It will depend on the availability of food and if a caregiver is able to stay with the student while they eat their breakfast.

Early Dismissals

Unless a parent, a guardian, or a designated emergency contact has contacted the school in advance or provided a signed note to the school explaining the situation, and the school has granted permission, no student will be dismissed early from school. In addition, the parent, guardian, or designee must sign the student out with the Main Office before removing the student from school grounds. Students will not be dismissed unless the parent or guardian has physically come to the Main Office. Notification regarding early dismissals should be made as far in advance as possible. To ensure an orderly dismissal process, students will not be dismissed after 3:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday or after 1:00 p.m. on Fridays.

Likewise, if a student needs to be sent home due to an illness or behavioral infraction, a parent/guardian, or other individual authorized for pickup must come to the school, meet with the Principal or his/her designee, and remove the student from school. Students being sent home for behavioral infractions will not be dismissed unless the parent, guardian, or a designee has physically come to the school.

In such situations, students are not permitted to return to school until an in-person meeting or telephone conference with a member of the school leadership team has been completed.

Arrival

Explore Community School opens its doors at 7:30 a.m. every day. Students are welcome to arrive any time between 7:30 and 7:59 a.m., but must be inside the school by 8:00 a.m. when the school day officially begins. Any student who arrives into the school after 8:00 a.m. will be counted as tardy and needs to be signed in by a parent or a guardian. All students must enter through the front door of the main building.

For the 2019 Fall Semester, Explore will offer early drop off at 7:15-7:30am. This will be in the Martha O’Bryan Center Community Room. This is a service that we are offering to support a smooth and timely arrival for our families as construction will still be taking place at and around Explore This is not considered full before and after care, but a time to drop off for families who are on a tighter time schedule in the morning. We have limited space for this time. We ask other members of our community to be mindful and reserve this service for those families who need this extra support. This will be in place until the completion of the new Dew Street which will increase access to the school and will reduce traffic congestion on the street.

Breakfast begins at 7:30 a.m., and serving ends in classrooms at 7:50 a.m. If students arrive to their classrooms after 7:50 a.m., we will assume that they do not require breakfast. Explore cannot promise that we will be able to serve breakfast to students arriving after 7:50am.

If parents need to speak to a teacher or conduct any other classroom business, this should occur after the school day and by appointment with the teacher. Unless an appointment has been made with a specific staff member ahead of time, students and families must remain outside of the school building until 7:30 a.m. Following the first week of school, Explorers should be dropped off at the front door and caregivers will not be permitted to accompany them to class.

Dismissal

Students will be dismissed from school at 3:45 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Students will be dismissed at 1:45 p.m. on Friday. Parents/guardians who arrive before dismissal must wait outside until their teacher dismisses students. In order to ensure a safe, timely dismissal for all students, we are unable to provide early dismissal for students in the last 30 minutes of school.

Teachers will keep a list of each Explorer’s dismissal method (bus, car, walk, after school program) in their classroom. If the student is to be dismissed in a manner departing from the routine, caregivers must contact the front desk by 3:00. The front desk will update the method on our Explore dismissal channel. Requests to change dismissal methods made after 3:00 will not be permitted.

Every family will be issued two dismissal placards per student. These placards will serve as mandatory identification each time your child is dismissed from school. Maintaining the placards is the responsibility of each parent as they serve as proof of permission to pick up students from Explore. Please let us know as soon as possible if a placard is lost or stolen and we will issue an alternate. To ensure the safety of our students, we will check the identification and the list of individuals approved to pick up students for everyone picking up a student without a placard.

Timely pick-up of students is critical so that our already hard-working and highly dedicated teachers do not have to stay after their normal working hours. Keep in mind that Explore teachers are salaried paid employees and do not earn over-time when they work beyond their regular schedule. Three pick-ups of students after 4pm will result in a phone or in-person conference being scheduled between the caregiver and school operations team to problem solve about the late pick-ups. Next steps and potential consequences will be discussed. Consistently late pick-up adds undue stress on school team members, and often causes embarrassment and anxiety for the student.

Bus Transportation

Participation in bus transportation is a privilege. All behavioral expectations outlined in the Explore Community Handbook apply on school bus transportation. Students who take the school bus are expected to act responsibly and respectfully at all times. All school expectations apply on the bus and certain additional rules will also apply during bus transportation.

Bus Rider Rights and Responsibilities

We are happy to be able to provide our Explorers with the opportunity to ride the school bus! We use the bus in order to get Explorers to and from school safely, and to participate in fun and enriching activities off site.

Explore partners with Grayline as our official bus service. The following outlines expectations from both Explore and Grayline on the rights and responsibilities that our Explorers and families have when riding the bus for any school related purpose. Our shared goal is to provide a safe and comfortable ride for the Explorers, our staff, and the drivers.

Rules of the Bus
  1. Follow the directions of the driver and/or monitor.

  2. Stay seated throughout the ride.

  3. Keep hands, arms, legs, and objects to yourself..

  4. Take care of the bus. (No trash, no writing or damage to the bus)

Explorers are expected to follow these rules whenever they are riding the bus. If a student is struggling to meet the expectations of the bus, then students can earn consequences starting from a one-way suspension from the bus for the afternoon, up to a full removal from the bus for the semester or year.

Caregivers will be contacted in the case of any unexpected behaviors on the bus. For more information about the bus discipline policy, please see the full bus discipline policy outlined below.

The following are non-negotiable behaviors which warrant the highest level of discipline and may lead to immediate removal from the bus:

  • Fighting/Physical Attacks
  • Verbal Aggression (Making Threats to the driver, monitor, or other rider)
  • Three afternoon student returns to school

The safety of our community members is paramount and the above listed behaviors compromise the overall safety and well-being of our community and thus, cannot be accepted.

In addition to rules for our Explorers, our staff, Grayline drivers, and families also have rights and responsibilities.

Community Rights
All Explorers, Grayline staff, and Caregivers have the right to
  • A safe and timely riding experience
  • Courteous and respectful treatment
  • Ask questions or express concerns about their experience
  • Expect follow up to address their concerns

 

Community Rights
All Explorers, Grayline staff, and Caregivers have the right to
  • Be at the bus stop on time for AM pick up and PM drop off
  • Use respectful language and tone when interacting with Explore/Grayline staff and Caregivers, and Explorers
  • Raise any questions or concerns to the school
  • Participate in any follow up actions to address concerns (i.e. meetings/phone calls, etc.)

Bus Rule Violation Consequences

  • One infraction = Student receives a verbal warning from school leadership and school leadership makes a phone call home to the student’s caregiver.
  • Two infractions = School leadership makes a phone call home to the student’s caregiver informing him/her that the student will be suspended from the bus in both the morning and afternoon the following day.
  • Three infractions = School leadership makes a phone call home to the student’s caregiver informing him/her that the student will be suspended from the bus in both the morning and afternoon for the next three (3) days.
  • Four infractions = School leadership makes a phone call home to the student’s caregiver informing him/her that the student will be suspended from the bus in both the morning and afternoon for the next five (5) days.
  • Five infractions = School leadership makes a phone call home to the student’s caregiver informing him/her that the student is permanently suspended from the bus, either for a semester or the remainder of the school year.

An administrator will meet the bus at school every day. No student will board or exit the bus before the administrator checks with the driver about behavior.

  • If the school determines a child is not ready to ride the bus safely, a parent will be asked to come to the school building to pick up the child from school.
  • More serious behavior (i.e. fighting) will be investigated and students will be treated exactly as if the incident happened on school grounds.

Infractions, if serious enough, can warrant immediate loss of bus privileges for the remainder of the school year. Families are strongly encouraged to reinforce the importance of proper bus behavior and the potential consequences for poor behavior choices. Should a student lose bus privileges, the student’s caregiver is responsible for arranging alternative transportation for the student. Unless a student is suspended, the student will earn an “unexcused absence” for failure to attend school as a result of lost bus privileges.

Caregivers should plan to arrive at the bus stops to meet their students at least five minutes before the scheduled arrival time. Bus drivers will have a copy of the list of individuals authorized to pick up every student and will check for placards or IDs before releasing students off the bus. No student will be released off the bus without a caregiver or authorized representative present.

School Closings

Explore follows the MNPS inclement weather closing policy. Please monitor local television and radio stations for any closure announcement. Explore will also confirm such closings through Bloomz, and One-Call as soon as the decision is made.

In the rare case that there is a school closing that is separate from the district, Explore will inform caregivers via phone and through Bloomz and the school’s Facebook page. Caregivers will also be notified of school re-opening information as soon as it is made available. Here are some examples of reasons why school may close: flooding, no power, safety or security issue in the building or community.