Dear Understanding HST Parents,
This Friday is the annual March for Life. I get quite a few questions concerning this event so I am going to consolidate my answers in an FYI email to everyone.
First – HST is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. As such, we cannot endorse anything political and *the March for Life has become a political event, although many attend simply because of spiritual convictions*. It is true that our mission clearly states that we are a Christian principled organization and HST’s founders and board have always given God the glory for all that we do, but we are open to families of all faiths and backgrounds. Thus, we do not give special exemptions for this event.
If students have not used their one excused absence, they can use it to attend this event. All families have the option of taking one excused absence between September and January. (February through April are all mandatory rehearsals.)
*The “grey” area of confusion is when students have been absent for sickness*. Technically, we do not count sickness as the excused absence, so by the letter-of-the-law the student could take another absence as their “excused” absence. However, I will state that once upon a time sickness *was* considered an excused absence because people who wanted to miss more than once would simply “call in sick.” The number of absences was getting excessive, so we resorted to sickness counting as the excused absence. While this reduced absences, it also caused a great deal of stress for families who needed to use their absence for holiday trips or other special events. Thus, we switched back to sickness not counting. I will say, however, that the number of “sick” absences has been increasing over the last few years. I trust that this is due to increasingly bad flu seasons, but if it came to my attention that is was also due to the “call in sick” mind-set, I would consider switching this policy back.
Let me take this opportunity to again explain, why HST’s has a strict attendance policy.
– *HST’s production schedule is incredibly stressful for our directors.* Producing 6 shows simultaneously means that directors do not have undivided support from myself or any of the production and tech support people. * No other program operates the way HST does.* If other programs puts up 6 shows in a year (and there are very few that do), they spread them out throughout the year so they can focus on one at a time. HST strives to compensate for the high production stress, * by handling all admin issues, all parent communication,* and striving for minimal absences. – When there are missing performers, a rehearsal loses much of it’s value. Once a show is “running,” directors feel that a rehearsal without every cast member is useless because you can’t get the rhythm of the show when someone has to fill in and “read” lines for a missing person or “hold” the space in a choreographed dance. That is why it is standard practice in theater to make all rehearsals mandatory (or to have actors declare their absence needs when auditioning).
Having explained all that, *HST’s first preference is that students attend the youth events that are held in the morning for the March for Life, and still attend afternoon rehearsals.* High absenteeism will not help our directors have productive rehearsals. However, under HST’s current policy, students will not be penalized if they take their excused absence for this event.
To reduce the directors’ stress as much as possible, we ask that families let us know in advance if your student(s) will be missing this Friday. *This will give directors the opportunity to figure out what they can work on with the students they will have in attendance. *
I hope this email helps parents understand HST’s strict attendance policy, so that you can explain it to your students (or just let them read this email). Blessings, Marilyn