TAZEWELL, Va. — Regular attendance paid off in more than one way for 80 students at Tazewell Middle School.

Students who missed five days or less during the year were rewarded with a trip to the Aqua Park at Lincolnshire Park in Tazewell. The trip was paid for with funds from Tazewell’s town and county governments.

Tazewell Town Manager Todd Day said the town cut the $15 fee in half as its contribution to the event. Southern District Supervisor Mike Hymes appropriated funds to cover the remainder of the cost.

Tazewell Middle School Principal Charity Hurst made the request as part of a plan to help the school improve attendance after it was issued a warning last year from the Virginia Department of Education.

When she made the request April 18, the school had 192 students, or 48%, of its enrollment who had missed five days or less. That sharply contrasted with 62 out of 410 students with a chronic absentee rate the school reported last year. VDOE requires schools to have all students miss 10 percent or less of the total school days to be accredited.

In response to the policy and the warning, the school formed a positive behavior intervention and support team to find solutions to the attendance problem. Using the theme TMS Strive for 5, the group developed a plan to improve attendance by asking each student to attend five days a week.

They used a multi-pronged effort including educating the families about the importance of attendance and encouraging them to make regular attendance a priority. Throughout the year they gave weekly awards to students and used wrist bands, social media, newsletters and other means of reminding students to make attendance a priority.

The visit to the Aqua Park, in its second year of operation on Lincolnshire Lake, was part of the plan to get the community involved in supporting students and offer the ultimate reward for students who met the goal.

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