H-SANTA MARIA

Dec 15, 2010 9:48 PM by Ariel Wesler

Tough-love tardy policy gets students to class on time

A new tardy policy at Santa Maria High School is cutting down on the number of kids late to class. Students not in their seats when the bell rings are locked out of class. Administrators got the idea for the program after visiting Artesia High School in Southern California.

When the Saints go marching in, they better be on time.

"Usually once, you hear the bell, you wonder, what bell are we at, I should walk even faster," said 12th Grader Yared Portillo.

Students not in class will be put in detention for the entire period. Once inside, they sign in, write why they were late, and their parents are notified. Three times in a row and they're sent to a counselor.

"When you leave high school and you go to the work force, an expectation is that they're going to be on time," said Assistant Principal Pete Flores.

"Nobody is saying that it's not good policy," said Parent Arnulfo Romero.

Teachers say tardiness directly affects their ability to teach.

"You have to have the kids refocus on what you're saying. Another one comes in late, and you have to stop again. It's really disruptive," said World History Teacher John Jimenez.

When the school first started it's tardy campaign in November, administrators caught close to 200 students showing up late for class. After just a week, that number dropped to about 30.

School leaders say the new policy allows them to pinpoint and help those students who are chronically late.

"It's our job to make sure that our students from Santa Maria are competitive when they leave high school, not only academically, but through ethics and behavior," said Principal Joe Dominguez.

A little tough love is just part of a school-wide transformation to boost student achievement and the school's reputation.

Administrators say 9th and 10th graders are late most often. Students are allowed to make up the work they miss. Down the road, the school also plans to have a detention teacher to help prepare students for the High School Exit Exam.

School leaders say this is just the beginning. Other policies are in the works. They include banning cell phones, having students wear mandatory I.D. badges, and enforcing a stricter dress code.

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