Absentee rate high

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Twenty percent of students were absent from Steamboat Springs Middle School on Tuesday, but secretary Ginny Fry expected worse.

"We were wondering what would happen, being one of the only districts in Colorado still open," Fry said Tuesday, when 100 of the school's roughly 500 students didn't show up for class.

Tuesday marked the last day of school before winter break for Steamboat's public school students, and as is typical, about 20 percent of the district's 1,900 pupils weren't in attendance the day before vacation.

Strawberry Park Elementary School secretary Tara Burdick reported 73 of the school's students absent Monday and Tuesday. The school typically has between 10 and 20 absences a day.

Attendance rates were similar at Steamboat Springs High School, where about 100 students missed school Monday and Tuesday, office manager Karen Campbell said.

"I actually expected more (students) to be gone," Campbell said. "But this is pretty typical (for a short week before a vacation)."

Secretaries at each district school said most absences were holiday-related though some students are plagued by the flu and other illnesses. Many of the absences weren't pre-arranged.

High school assistant principal Mike Knezevich said that despite the low attendance numbers, Monday and Tuesday were meaningful days for teachers and students -- but it didn't mean everyone liked it.

"They're doing something meaningful in each class," Knezevich said. "It's not a blowoff. Kids that aren't here are definitely missing out."

That's particularly true this school year, he said, because the high school has final exams during the week school resumes in January.

"Teachers are treating it like every other day," Knezevich said. "We have to. Teachers have curriculum to cover. But I have heard a lot of complaints from both kids and staff about these two days. I swear, I think we're the only district in the country in school today."

Knezevich said the school calendar varies year to year depending on when Christmas falls and the results of the calendar survey.

Of the 663 people who responded to the survey, 74 percent said they favored a calendar resembling the one for the 2002-03 school year, with a one-and-a-half-week winter break, a one-week mid-winter "Blues Break" and a one-week spring break after the Steamboat Ski Area closes in April.

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