A remote-only day counts as a regular school day during the COVID-19 public health crisis. So, just like a typical in-person day, New Jersey students still need to be marked as absent or present when they're learning from their own home or elsewhere.

How attendance is tracked will likely vary throughout the state, as virtual learning takes on a different meaning from district to district.

"Obviously we want every student to participate," said Richard Bozza, executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators. "Particularly in those districts where we're going back to fully virtual, we really do want to make sure that we're engaging with them as best we can."

Bozza said there were concerns towards the end of the 2019-2020 academic year, which operated online only, that many kids "just checked out" and "really were not connected."

In New Jersey's "Road Back" report, schools are encouraged to consider creative, flexible solutions for attendance monitoring. Based on parent work schedules, some students may not be able to attend a live morning meeting, for example. In this case, students should be provided opportunities to show attendance asynchronously.

The report specifically notes that attendance "should not be based exclusively on student online participation," and that districts should use "assignment or project completion as an alternative."

Systems used by schools to deliver or accept work can track a student's progress or at least prove that they've been engaged.

New Jersey requires that schools take certain actions when students miss days with no excuse. The response is more extreme when kids have at least five unexcused absences, and even more extreme for kids who've missed at least 10 days.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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