Polk County Public Schools’ mission is to deliver a high-quality education to all students, but to do that, students must be in school.

Florida law requires all children between the ages of 6 and 16 to attend school regularly. Students between 16 and 18 must attend school regularly unless the parent and student have formally terminated school by completing the Declaration of Intent to Terminate School Enrollment Form and participated in an exit interview. Legal actions may be taken against the parent and/or the student for non-attendance.

Attendance is vital to student success, but also a source of many questions for students and parents alike. Here, we’ve compiled answers to the most frequently asked attendance-related questions.

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Every day counts. Join us in helping to reduce the number of student absences by striving for less than five excused or unexcused absences in a school year.

Attendance FAQs

Why is attendance so important?

Too many absences can cause children to fall behind in school. Research shows missing 10 percent of the school year, or about 18 days, in kindergarten can make it harder to learn to read. Students can still fall behind if they miss just a day or two every few weeks. Absences can affect the whole classroom if the teacher has to slow down learning to help children catch up.

What will happen if my child misses several days of school?

Florida State Statute mandates children attend school regularly. If a child starts to develop a pattern of nonattendance, an attendance meeting will be held to determine how to proceed. Many times, when nonattendance patterns have been established, a school social worker will be assigned to assist the family. Per state statute, legal action may be the result if attendance does not improve after considerable action is taken.

What if my child refuses to attend school?

If your child is refusing to attend, contact your school and ask to speak with your school social worker. Your school social worker can assist with providing the right resources or referrals for support.

What is the difference between an excused absence and an unexcused absence?

An excused absence is an absence that has been sanctioned by the parent and the school. There are lots of reasons why an absence would be excused, including, for example, personal illnesses, the illness or death of an immediate family member, religious holidays, educational trips, trips with parents, school-sponsored activities, judicial actions, and military dependents visiting in time of combat duty. Absences not included in this list will be unexcused. For more information, view the school district’s attendance policy. The attendance policy also explains documentation that may be required for an absence to be excused.

At what point do absences become excessive and what interventions/consequences can I expect?

The following is a look at the thresholds for excessive absenteeism and resulting interventions/consequences:

  • More than 10 absences for the school year, regardless of whether they’re excused or unexcused — A letter will be sent to parents requiring a doctor’s note for additional absences to be excused. A Medical Documentation for Absences from will be required for chronic/long-term illnesses.
  • Five unexcused absences in a 30-calendar-day period — A letter will be sent to the parents, asking them to contact the school about the reason for the absences; parents may be required to meet with a problem-solving team; attendance contract will be required.
  • Fifteen unexcused absences in a 90-calendar-day period — A letter will be sent to parents to schedule a meeting with a problem-solving team; attendance contract will be required; family may be referred to Youth and Family Alternatives for truancy; parents may be prosecuted; driver’s license privileges may be suspended.

Note: When students are absent for more than 50 percent of a school day without an excuse, it will be counted as an unexcused absence.

When does absenteeism become truancy?

When a student has a total of 15 days of unexcused absences from school during any 90-calendar-day period, with or without the parent’s knowledge or consent, a student will be considered truant. In these cases, the superintendent will notify the student, parents and Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, if appropriate.

Who do I call if a minor is in a public place without supervision during school hours?

Please call your local police department or Crimestoppers at 1-800-226-8477 for immediate enforcement/investigation. Truancy tips may be called in to the Polk County Public Schools Attendance Office at 863-534-0022.

What is the procedure for make-up work after absences?

For excused absences, the student will have a reasonable amount of time — no fewer than the number of days absent plus two days — to complete and hand in work for credit. Principals may grant more time depending on the circumstances.

Work missed during the student’s first three unexcused absences during a semester is expected to be made up. This includes absences caused by an out-of-school suspension. After the fourth unexcused absence, students may be denied the ability to make up the work.

What do I do if I have had my driver’s license suspended for school non-attendance and I need it reinstated?

If you have received a letter stating your driver’s license will be suspended for school nonattendance and you are ready to have it reinstated, please call your school office.

What is a hardship waiver for attendance purposes?

A hardship waiver provides students with the opportunity to maintain his/her driving privileges during the period of time it takes the student to comply with the attendance requirements. Waivers may be granted for a minor under the school’s jurisdiction if a personal or family hardship requires that the minor have a driver’s license for his/her own, or his/her family’s own, employment or medical care.

What does a school social worker do and how do they assist with absenteeism?

School social workers are trained mental health professionals with a degree in social work and certification from the Department of Education.

School social workers provide services related to a student’s social and emotional well-being. School social workers are the link between the home, school and community, providing direct as well as indirect services to students, families and school personnel to promote and support students’ academic and social success. In Polk County Public Schools, the school social worker’s primary role is to assist with removing barriers to school attendance. The school social worker assists in identifying strategies for the school, student, and family to overcome attendance concerns.

Do all Polk County Schools have a school social worker?

All schools are assigned a school social worker. The average school social worker has 5-7 schools that they serve on a weekly basis.

How does a school social worker become involved with my child?

The district has MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support) in place at the school level. The child is identified through this system as being in need of services. The child is then referred to the Student Support Team for review. This process may result in a referral to a school social worker for additional support.

Are school social workers employed by DCF?

School social workers are employed by Polk County Public Schools. School social workers are not affiliated with the DCF system. School social workers are mandated reporters, just like all school employees, and if they suspect abuse or neglect, they must report it to the Florida Abuse Hotline.

I received a letter about my child’s attendance and it says they can refer my child to the school social worker. Am I in trouble?

The letter that is sent home about a child’s attendance is a district-wide procedure. The letter is intended to inform parents about the attendance process. Your school social worker is able to assist with a child’s attendance by implementing a variety of interventions. If a school social worker becomes involved, they may also assist by referring a student/family to additional services within the community.