Officials re-institute Saturday school — emphasis on value of attending classes

Saturday+school+begins+for+the+first+time+since+March+2020+during+the+first+week+of+October+in+Room+83+for+students+with+unexcused+absences+or+excessive+tardies.

Audrey Seo

Saturday school begins for the first time since March 2020 during the first week of October in Room 83 for students with unexcused absences or excessive tardies.

Susie Kim

For the first time since the COVID-19 campus lockdown in March 2020, school officials have restarted this month in two rooms on campus Saturday school, a consequence given to students with attendance issues. 

“Saturday school is utilized as part of our attendance process for students who have truancies, unexcused absences or have excessive tardies to class,” said assistant principal John Oldenburg, who coordinates the program. “We have had three Saturday schools thus far this school year, and students who attend have done a wonderful job.”

Besides avoiding class, not serving a detention, which is held every Wednesday after school in Room 24, could also lead to a Saturday school invitation.

The first session started Oct. 2 from 8-noon in Room 83 with approximately 10 students who showed up. Students who do not attend are typically reassigned to Saturday school for another day, given an additional session or serve other consequences such as in-house suspensions.

Those serving their consequence must bring some academic work to do; if they sleep, the Saturday school supervisor – usually a teacher – will remove the student from class and the individual will discuss another consequence with Oldenburg.

 “Most students have assignments and other things that are due, and the weekend is a great time to catch up on them so that’s what we typically ask of them,” Oldenburg said.

In the past before the coronavirus pandemic, school officials usually started this program earlier in the school year. But they decided to hold off until nearly two months into the 2021-2022 school year to ease students’ transition to in-person learning.

“The vast majority of our students stayed home through the hybrid schedule, so we really wanted to intentionally give students an opportunity to get back to school, get back into routines and become comfortable being students again,” Oldenburg said. “It also allowed the students to really understand and learn about our expectations here at Sunny Hills.”

Because school officials couldn’t require students to serve their weekend consequence during the coronavirus pandemic, Oldenburg said he often held parent contact or family conferences to discuss students’ decisions to not join Zoom class sessions.

“The online platform doesn’t really work for Saturday school,” Oldenburg said. “In that respect, I would say that a majority of schools did not do something because we were not able to have a large number of students on campus.”

Social science teacher and Associated Student Body adviser Mike Paris thinks Saturday school is a good consequence for the students’ actions.

The vast majority of our students stayed home through the hybrid schedule, so we really wanted to intentionally give students an opportunity to get back to school, get back into routines and become comfortable being students again.”

— assistant principal John Oldenburg

“I think students’ behaviors will change with Saturday school,” he said. “It has an impact on kids because they know that if they don’t show up to class, they will have to pay a price for it.”

Junior Veronica Diaz also believes restarting Saturday school encourages students to attend school, especially because learning is in-person and you can no longer watch video recordings of class lectures.

“I think people will have better attendance if Saturday school comes back because it is a consequence that happens during the weekend which is our time off from education,” Diaz said. “It is more important to be punctual in-person than distance learning because you miss a lot of course content when you are late.”

Even though school officials have reinstituted this program, Oldenburg said only a small portion of the student body has had to go to it.

“We’re very fortunate with the attendance here at Sunny Hills because it is very good,” he said. “Our goal is to have the smallest number of students at Saturday school as possible because we want students to be meeting those expectations of Lancers.”