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Attendance Office: 650.856.5179 (phone), 650-856-5111 (fax) or

Attendance Policy

The Palo Alto Unified School District recognizes that success in school is in part related to prompt and regular classroom attendance. Frequent absences or tardies, which result in a student missing all or parts of presentations, demonstrations, discussions, explanations, and/or other classroom activities, are detrimental to the individual student and the class. Further, school attendance is compulsory as per Education Code (48200); therefore, student non- attendance and/or persistent tardiness are matters of serious concern.

Attendance Expectations

Students that attend school consistently have a greater chance of excelling academically. Being present in the classroom provides students the ability to ask for clarification, engage in meaningful discussion, and take notes in preparation for examinations. Daily attendance promotes educational success and builds stronger relationships with peers and teachers.

The following are the attendance expectations for all students:

  • Attend school daily and on time to maximize academic and social success.
  • Remain after school when directed by a school official to complete disciplinary or other requirements.
  • Be accounted for at all times throughout the school day, to promote safety.
  • Abide by district policies related to school attendance.

Absence Reporting Procedure

It is the parent/guardian’s responsibility to report their student’s absences. Only parents and/or guardians can excuse a student’s absence. Parents/guardians must contact the Attendance Office every day their student is absent. Messages can be left on the answering machine at all times (650-856-5179) or email ( If contact is not made, the absence will be coded as unexcused unless it is cleared by a parent/guardian within 24 hours.

If a student is absent from class for any reason and has not cleared the absence with the Attendance Office, they will receive an automated phone call at home to alert the parent/guardian that they have been marked absent. The information relayed by the automatic dialer is not necessarily a complete or accurate representation of the student’s attendance activity, nor does it mean that the student has a cut. A phone call by the automatic dialer is a reminder that the absence must be cleared. Any absence not cleared by the parent/guardian within 72 hours will be treated as a cut.

Detailed attendance information, including student attendance records by course, period and day is available for both students and parents to review through the Infinite Campus Parent/Student Portal. If a student has been marked absent by mistake, the student should contact their teacher to make the correction.

Excused and Unexcused Absences

Excused Absences” fall into one of two categories:

  • Health – Absences due to illness, medical appointments, or quarantine.
  • Warranted – These include, but are not limited to the following:
    • Court Appearance
    • Bereavement
    • Funeral service for member of immediate family
    • Religious Purposes

The teacher of any class from which a student is absent shall determine what assignments the student shall make up and in what period of time the student shall complete such assignments. Upon satisfactory completion, full credit shall be granted. The tests and assignments shall be equivalent to, but not necessarily identical to, that which the student missed during the absence. Teachers shall assign such makeup work as necessary to ensure academic progress, not as a punitive measure.

Unexcused Absences” include, but are not limited to:

  • Truancy
  • Missing the bus
  • Shopping
  • Babysitting
  • Over-sleeping
  • Car trouble/traffic problems
  • Staying home to do homework
  • Staying home due to being up late the previous night (even if related to school activities – dances, drama, sports, etc.)
  • Family vacations

Health Related Absences

The district realizes that students may experience illness or health issues (physical/mental) throughout the year, requiring them to be absent from school. In order to provide appropriate supports to students with situational or chronic health issues, the following procedures apply.

In health related cases, in which the student is absent 5 consecutive full days, a physician’s note is required in order to excuse the absences. In cases where the student is absent over the equivalent of 10% of class time for any individual class in the semester (after state enrollment date) for health reasons, a physician’s note is required in order to excuse the absences. Health related absences may not be excused without appropriate medical documentation provided by a physician or other licensed medical provider. Chronic absences shall be referred to the health office or district nurse.

Health Appointments

Parents should make every effort to schedule appointments outside of school hours. However, if not possible, parents are urged to consider varying the times of the day during which health appointments are made in order to avoid missing the same class consistently. If a student must leave during the day for a doctor/dentist appointment, they should report to the Attendance Office prior to the first period class with a note, phone call or email from the parent/guardian to receive a permit to leave. If a student returns to school the same day, they are required to report to the Attendance Office before returning to class to provide verification of the health visit.

Family Trips

We realize there are times families need to travel for various reasons during the school year. However, family trips are not considered excused absences as per Education Code 48205. We want parents to understand that classroom instruction and the interactive dynamic of the classroom experience are irreplaceable. While unexcused, students may be given the opportunity to make up missed work. Teachers may assign such makeup work as necessary to ensure academic progress, not as a punitive measure. Families should contact teachers and make arrangements ahead of time. Extended Absence Reporting and Planning forms are available in the Attendance Office.

Early Dismissals

All PAUSD Middle Schools are “closed campus” and students may not leave the campus while school is in session. Students who leave the campus without prior permission will receive a cut. If it is necessary to leave school early, the student must bring in a note from the parent/guardian on the morning of the day of the absence. Because of our concern for student safety, telephone requests for dismissal will not be honored. In addition, students may not be released to any individual(s) other than those listed on the student's emergency card unless written permission is given.


Absences, which do not qualify as excused as defined in Education Code, shall be considered in this category. Education Code 48260 (subdivision (a)) provides that a student is truant if that student is:

  • Absent from school without valid excuse three full days in one school year, or
  • Tardy or absent for more than any 30-minute period during the school day.
  • Without a valid excuse on three occasions in one school year or any combination thereof.


(Under 30 minutes)

Being punctual is an important personal habit to develop to promote school success. Students who are late for class miss valuable instruction and unnecessarily interrupt their classes. A student is considered “tardy” if not in the room or at the place designated by the teacher/school staff at the beginning of each period. Students arriving late to class shall be marked tardy unless they arrive with a written excuse from a staff member. If the PAUSD bus is late, the student should get a “Late Bus” pass from the Attendance Office. All teachers will share their expectations and consequences for tardy behaviors at the beginning of the school year.

Counseling and administrative staff will follow up on excessive tardies.

  • At 5 tardies the student is assigned one lunch detention. The student may lose dance and activity privileges for a specified time period. A meeting may be held with a counselor or an administrator to discuss the issue.
  • At 10 tardies the student is assigned two additional lunch detentions. The student loses dance and activity privileges for a specified time period. A meeting may be held with a counselor or an administrator to discuss the issue.
  • At 15 tardies a letter is sent home, and the student is assigned one Saturday School detention. The student loses dance and activity privileges for a specified time period. A meeting is held with a counselor or an administrator to discuss the issue.
  • For every 5 tardies after 15 (20, 25, 30 . . .), the student will be assigned another Saturday School.

In addition, the student may be referred either to SARB (School Attendance Review Board) or an SST (Student Success Team) meeting.


(Tardies over 30 minutes)

Absences or leaving class or school without parent, guardian or school approval will be marked as “cuts.” Students will be given one full day following an absence from school to clear any cuts. Cutting class periods is considered extremely serious and detrimental to school success. At the secondary level, three cuts in any one period are equivalent to three absences. Administrators and counselors will involve parents in resolving the cutting of class periods. Cutting of class periods may result in detention and/or loss of school privileges, with a possible referral to the School Attendance Review Board (SARB), if necessary.

Actions to Address Poor Attendance

Given the importance of school attendance to academic success and the requirements put forth by Education Code stating that school attendance is compulsory, the district makes every effort to keep students engaged in school. The following actions may be taken to address poor school attendance:

  • Parent contact/meetings to discuss school attendance.
  • Development of attendance contracts.
  • Providing in-class consequences.
  • Assignment to Saturday School.
  • Denial of work permits
  • Referral to SARB

School Attendance Review Board (SARB): (Ed. Code, 48320)

SARB is a district-level committee, which diverts students with serious school attendance or behavior problems from the Juvenile Court System and provides a forum where the problems affecting school adjustment can be discussed and solutions reached. To prevent students from establishing a continuing pattern of poor attendance or behavior, SARB may make dispositions which range from returning a student to the school of attendance under strict contract to making an involuntary transfer to another district program or educational option. Whereas the primary purpose is diversion, SARB is also the primary vehicle for referring students to the Juvenile Justice System once it is clear that they can no longer profit from the resources the school district has to offer.