Attendance Policy

Regular school attendance is critical for academic success.

Our goal is to ensure that every student attends school regularly and on time. Daily presence in school has a huge impact on a student’s academic success, starting in kindergarten and continuing through high school. Even as children grow older and more independent, families can continue to play a key role in making sure students get to school safely every day and understand why attendance is so important for success in school and in life. We realize some absences are unavoidable due to health problems or other circumstances. We also know that when students miss too much school—excused or unexcused—they can fall behind academically. Your child is less likely to succeed if he or she is chronically absent—which means missing 18 or more days in a school year.

What are excused and unexcused absences?


Excused absences
are when school-aged students are absent from school with a valid excuse and parental approval. Examples of excused absences include:
  • Student illness (a doctor’s note is required if a student is absent for more than five days);
  • Death in the student’s immediate family;
  • Necessity for a student to attend a judicial proceeding as a plaintiff, defendant, witness or juror;
  • Observance of a religious holiday;
  • Temporary school closings due to weather, unsafe conditions or other emergencies;
  • Medical reasons such as a doctor’s appointment (a doctor’s note is required);
  • Failure of DC to provide transportation where legally responsible;
  • Lawful suspension or exclusion from school by school authorities;
  • Absences to allow students to visit their parent or legal guardian, who is in the military; immediately before, during or after deployment;
  • Emergency or other circumstances approved by the Director of Attendance and Support Services or designee.
Excuse notes must be submitted by the parent/guardian within 5 days of a student’s return to school after an absence. The note must include a written explanation of the reason for the student’s absence. Parents/guardians may write their own note, or may use the DCPS template excuse note form obtained from the school.

Unexcused absences
are when school-aged students are absent from school without a valid excuse, with or without parental approval. Examples of unexcused absences include:
  • Babysitting
  • Doing errands
  • Extended travel (domestic or international)
  • Oversleeping
What are the attendance expectations for students?
  • Arrive on time to school and to class each day.
  • Bring your books and materials to class.
  • Ask your teacher for missed work or make-up assignments for days you were absent.
How can families help their student succeed?
  • Let your child know that you think school is important.
  • Have a regular bedtime and enforce it.
  • Provide your child with plenty of time to get ready for school.
  • Provide an alternate transportation plan for getting your child to school on time.
  • Make sure your child arrives at school on time daily. Classes begin promptly at 8:45 a.m.
  • Students should arrive at least ten minutes early. Remember that, if a student is absent for more than 20% of the scheduled periods in a particular day they are considered to be absent for the entire day.
  • Try to make medical, dental and other appointments before and after school if possible. If appointments must be during the school day, plan them so that your child does not miss the same class every time.
  • Visit attendance.dc.gov for more information and resources.