Union School District officials lauded the district’s building administrators for increasing school attendance this school year.

Average attendance in four of the district’s five buildings has risen compared to the same point last year.

“We’re proud of the schools and the kids with the increase we’ve had,” Aaron Jones, assistant superintendent, said. “The teachers are doing a great job of helping the kids want to come to school and with more engagement in the classrooms. They’re creating an environment the kids want to be in.”

Central Elementary is the only exception, where the average daily attendance has decreased from 94.35 percent last year to 93.48 percent so far this year.

Average daily attendance at Beaufort Elementary went from 94.33 percent to 95.05 percent. At Clark-Vitt Elementary, students were in school 95.04 percent of the time, on average, compared to 94.95 percent last year.

Union Middle School also saw an increase in its averages, from 93.92 percent in 2012-13 to 94.57 percent in 2013-14. Union High School average daily attendance has gone from 93.33 percent last year to 94.44 percent this year.

“We’re definitely getting to where we want to be,” Bryant said.

The district needs to have 90 percent of students in school 90 percent of the time to meet annual performance report (APR) standards for the Missouri School Improvement Program.

“We want them to be in school so they can be exposed to all we have to offer,” Bryant added.

Last year, average attendance in the district ended at 94 percent for all buildings combined.

However, only 87.8 percent of students attended 90 percent of the time. This number looks at each student’s individual attendance, rather than an overall average.

While the goal is 100 percent, district administrators said they know that’s not realistic.

Both said they would like to see average attendance around 98 to 99 percent.

Jones said enforcing attendance is building positive habits for life.

“When they do graduate, they’ll be expected to be at work. Those habits start young and a good place to start is making sure they attend school,” he said.

Each building has made a more concerted effort at improving attendance, Bryant said.

For example, in the younger grades, students who have perfect attendance monthly are given a “brag tag,” a small tag with the achievement that can be added to a necklace. Those with near perfect attendance also are recognized.

Roaming the halls of Central Elementary, students can get a glimpse of each of the classes attendance rates, which are posted brightly on various walls as part of a friendly competition.

Building administrators with older students are making sure they talk to students who are missing school, as well as their parents, so no students are falling through the cracks.

Bryant said in a year like this, with so many missed school days, attendance is especially important.

“Every minute is important as we approach state assessments,” Bryant said. “We want to make sure we’ve mastered the learning that takes place for those assessments.”

Bryant said that while the state assessment is not the “end all of everything,” it’s a good indicator as to whether the students are acquiring skills necessary to be successful.

“The tests contain standards that relate to real-world applications, and that does relate to student success,” Bryant said.

Attendance also has an impact on funding, which is based on average daily attendance and the number of hours attended versus the total possible number of hours.