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Survey: Nearly 3/4 of Polk County teachers were chronically absent in 2013

U.S. Department of Education tracks chronically absent teachers in our area (Image: WTVC)

What happens when your child's teacher is missing from class?

The U.S. Department of Education says it can affect your child's education and they're watching the numbers.

Teachers who miss too much earn a title: chronically absent.

Kirsten Johnson says teaching is more than just a job for her.

"I'd rather do anything else than miss a day," Johnson said.

So, she takes being away from them seriously.

"You go back and you have to grade and you have to decide is what I left something that's really worthwhile, is it something they can do without me, or is it something that will have to be re-taught," she explained.

The U.S. Department of Education surveyed schools in 2013.

In five districts in our area, more than a third of its teachers were chronically absent, meaning, they missed more than 10 days in a school year.

Those ten days include sick days and maternity leave.

21% of Hamilton County's teachers missed that many days.

Polk County had the highest number in our district.

72 percent of its teachers were chronically absent.

Polk County Superintendent Dr. James Jones says they are aware of the problem and are trying to figure out how to cut down on the number.

He says it creates a financial burden by paying for substitute teachers.

We asked Rhea County superintendent Jerry Levengood what they've done to bring those numbers down.

He says they've cracked down on teachers who miss a lot of days.

"If we feel like we're having an issue with a person that would be abusing their sick leave then we can ask for a medical note," Levengood said.

Levengood says the goal is for students to learn in the classroom every day.

So, if they know a teacher will be absent ahead of time, they'll bring in a certified teacher instead of a substitute.

"So we don't have as big of a disruption of the instruction," he said.

Bradley County had one of the lowest numbers in our area.

We reached out to Dr. Linda Cash, the director of schools.

She says they just recently started celebrating perfect attendance for teachers as well as students.

You can see the percentage of absent teachers in your child's district here.

Just click on school/district search in the top left corner and then search by district and state.

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