August 27, 2014. You’ve sat through four different classes, but end up doing the same tedious things in each: receive mountains of paperwork, listen to the teacher lecture for far too long on class expectations and what’s happening later in the year, and engaging in incredibly awkward forced interactions with your newest classmates. By the end, you’ve collected various syllabi, student-teacher contracts, and forms. You sign your life away on the latter two categories that night, not bothering to read a word, especially in the case of the student handbook.

What you don’t realize is what you actually agreed to in those contracts. The handbook is explicit with its rules on absences, mentioning that a student is allowed “no more than four (4) absences (excused or unexcused) per term and no more than eight (8) absences (excused or unexcused) for the semester…” That means that even if you have a parent note, it still counts towards your total allotted absences.  The handbook continues, stating that “absences not counted towards the maximum absent totals….. [include] prolonged illness (documented by a note from a doctor…) [or] surgery/hospitalization (documented by a note from the doctor/hospital….).”

Class rules on absences, of course, vary slightly. Make-ups, including tests, quizzes, and homework, tend to be due a maximum of three days after a student’s return to school, and sometimes less than that if it’s a course with particularly high expectations. This does seem reasonable, except for the fact that students have at least 3 other classes, often times with just as much work. And if one’s out for an extended period of time? Forget about it; they’ll be spending the next three weeks trying to catch up.

Such was the case with Isabella Silveria, sophomore; she was out sick for a week and a half with pneumonia last year. “I had three tests in geometry, two in physical science, two quizzes in English, and a project, [plus] a lot of homework,” Silveria said. It took her until early June to catch up in every class, close to half a month after her first day back.

It’s expected to have a lot of work; each class meets for almost an hour and a half every day. But are some of the rules with make-up work bordering on too strict? Are students overly pressured to not miss school?

“[My teachers] were helpful and understanding,” stated Silveria on trying to catch up in her classes. “[As for being overly pressured, I think] it depends on what teachers you have because some teachers are strict on make up work and others are not.”

For many students, academics are only a portion of their lives; sports often have just as much priority, if not more. The MIAA gives individual schools the right to make policies on attendance, so long as it doesn’t interfere with MIAA rules, according to their handbook. AHS’s rules on attendance for athletes can partially be found in the athletic handbook, stating that students must be present from first bell to last bell in order to practice or compete that day. It later elaborates as to what is considered an “excused” absence: i.e., “illness, injury, academic, family, or religious reasons.”

Just because it’s an excused absence doesn’t mean there won’t be reverberations, though. “If you miss[ed] school for any reason then you couldn’t play [in the next game],” said Jillian Webber, member of the girls varsity basketball team. The logic behind this is that if a player wasn’t at a practice, it’s not fair to play them when all other players were there. But does this rule hurt more than it helps?

“I know that if I need to miss school then I need to miss, even if it means losing one game,” stated Webber. “[But] early in the season, one of my teammates was throwing up, [and] she did feel pressured to go to practice. It just made her more sick.”

Not every team follows this. According to Athletic Director Mr. Doucette, “Each team has its own set of team rules for missing practice. Commonly, the athlete just needs a note from a parent or doctor’s office and they’ll be all set. Without it, if it’s the practice the day before a game, they might not be able to play in the next game, or won’t be able to play the first half, etc. There are no uniform rules, but they’re pretty consistent.”

For example, the rules for girls’ freshman basketball and volleyball, both coached by Coach O’Dea last year, are different from those that Webber observed. “[If a player] misses practice, [then] they miss the next game, unless it is excused, [such as if they’re sick],” stated O’Dea. “[In that case,] they can play if they are well. Coaches receive the attendance from the office each day so we can see if the absences are excused or unexcused.”

Perhaps the policy Webber noted is just part of the pressures of being a varsity athlete, but that doesn’t change Webber’s views on it. “I wish some coaches would respect that when a player’s sick, that they’re really sick and probably shouldn’t come to practice,” she commented. “But overall, I think it doesn’t happen a whole lot, so there’s probably not much to do about it.”

Mr. Doucette noted the fact that some players must miss games for safety reasons. “In cases [like Isabella Silveria’s],” he said, “where it’s [an illness] as serious as pneumonia, making a player miss is for their safety [and own well-being].”

There are some policies within Andover Public Schools regarding the wellness of students, complete with guidelines on when to stay out. “Mainly the reasons for a medical absence would be a fever greater than 100 degrees, vomiting, diarrhea, or any contagious disease,” stated Ms. Chaff, school nurse. “The student can return [to school] after 24 hours [without] fever or symptoms, or [after] 24 hours on medication to treat illness.” And of course, every student should know his or her limits; if a student truly feels he or she shouldn’t come to school, then it’s probably a good idea to stay home.

By Rachel McIntosh