Saturday school open for Wayneboro parents, students

October 16, 2000

Saturday school open for Wayneboro parents, students

By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Last year, about 475 parents of Waynesboro Area School District students were brought before District Justice Larry G. Pentz and fined for allowing their children to miss school.

Pennsylvania law calls for fines in cases where students rack up three unexcused absences.

Now Pentz and the school district's truant officer are about to try something different. A new school board policy lets parents avoid a court appearance and fines if they agree to attend special Saturday morning classes along with their children.

The new policy only affects parents of elementary school students who are found guilty on a first offense. All others will still go before Pentz.

Elementary schools are targeted to reach children at an age when their attitudes and behavior can be changed. "I'm selfish about this," Pentz said. "These truancy cases take up a lot of my time." If the classes can change behavior early enough there will be fewer truancy cases for his office to deal with as the students enter middle and high school.


The district has other truancy prevention programs for middle and high school students, including a three-hour Saturday school for students in grades 7-12. That program started three years ago and also tries to change behavior and attitudes. In more severe cases, students are assigned to an after-school program at Abraxas, a private school in South Mountain, Pa., that deals with youngsters with special problems.

Last year, according to school records, there were 124 cases involving parents of children in the district's four elementary schools who were cited for truancy law violations.

Of the total, five were at Hooverville Elementary, 23 at Mowery Elementary, 26 at Summitview and 70 at Fairview Elementary. Most Fairview students walk to school since it's in town, said Tom Rocks, director of pupil services.

The elementary program is designed to be proactive, said Tina Venderau, the school district's full-time attendance officer for the last five years. Venderau will be one of five teachers in the Saturday classes. Pentz will volunteer his time to teach. Venderau and Pentz came up with the idea after seeing the truancy numbers increasing in the elementary schools.

Pentz said he will teach parents about the laws. Venderau and the other teachers will teach about attitudes and behavior toward school. "If parents are educated properly they can make better choices," Rocks said.

"This policy is a preventative measure, a second change," said Gloria Pugliano, assistant superintendent. "At this age it's a family issue," she said.

Parents and their children will be assigned to the Saturday school when the student has been late to school eight times, when a parent is cited for than three unexcused absences, when a principal determines that tardy notes are excessive or inappropriate or whenever Pentz orders it.

If an agreement between the parent and school principal is reached, the classes can be avoided.

According to school officials, students do better in school when they arrive on time. The majority of elementary school students are late because of their parents' personal needs, they said.

Pentz said he has had to jail a parent in a truancy case, usually for failure to pay a fine, only four or five times in the 13 years that he has been on the bench.

He also said there are cases when a parent does everything possible to get a child to stay in school to no avail. "They drop the child off at school and he goes out the back door," he said. In such cases, the courts can make the child legally responsible rather than his parents.

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