Trying Another Tack On Tardiness At Cinnaminson High, Maybe It's Homeroom That's Too Early.

Posted: August 08, 1999

CINNAMINSON — The high school principal here has tried everything short of paying students to have them show up for school on time.

Michael Zank once offered seminars where habitually late high school students learned the art of punctuality. But soon enough, they reverted to their old ways, stopping at the 7-Eleven and rolling in after homeroom.

He scrapped detention last year, thinking the alternative punishment was more unattractive: five tardies counted as one day absent.

Student lateness jumped about 40 percent.

"We took another nail in the coffin," Zank said.

So he will test yet another approach starting next month, when another school year commences at Cinnaminson High.

Homeroom will be sandwiched between first and second periods, rather than at the beginning of the day. This way, Zank said, late students will miss instruction time, rather than the morning announcements, so they may feel compelled to be on time.

"We kept hearing that homeroom was not as important anyways," Zank said.

And yes, detention for tardiness is back.

"We are back to a harder approach," Zank said

Getting stricter seemed all but inevitable by the end of last school year, when attendance personnel marked students late 4,800 times, up from about 3,400 the year before.

"That is about six latenesses per kid, which is a lot, considering some are never late," Zank said of the 800-student high school.

First-period teachers will now mark students late if they arrive after the morning bell, although attendance will still be taken during the 12-minute homeroom period.

But shifting the schedule may still not improve punctuality, and as one parent commented at a school board meeting last month, it may penalize students who ride buses and cannot control when they arrive.

Zank said he would stay with this approach if he saw results.

Dominick Lombardo, a senior and president of the student council, said the one change that might cut down on tardiness is to start the day later. The first bell rings at 7:19 a.m.

"A half-hour would make a big difference," Lombardo said. "It is nice to get out early, but it is not nice to get up early."

About four years ago, school did begin around 7:40 a.m., but there are no plans to return to that schedule.

"That 20 minutes made a difference," Zank said. "When we left that, we saw an increase in latenesses."

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