The Problem with Missing School


CHS students become stressed after missing school for sick days, holidays, and extracurriculars.

A month into the school year, my dad, my sister, and I were both in the kitchen eating breakfast. I could not breathe through my nose, and my sister’s eye had been red for two days. Between sips of coffee, my dad said that he should take us both to the doctor right now. Immediately, both my sister and I responded, saying that we could not possibly miss school, not even one period, because of the amount of schoolwork. 

Clayton High School is known for its academic rigor. Ranked in the top five schools in the state, it is known to all students that academics are the priority. So much so, students are expected to prioritize their academics over their physical health.

Analee Miller, a sophomore, recalled a day during the 2021-22 school year when she came to school with a bad cold because she could not miss a test in her honors physics class.                                                

[During the test] everyone was so upset because I was coughing, and because I was being a distraction. But I felt like I had no choice and I had to come to school,” Miller said. “I don’t feel like I was at my best cognitively or physically and that affected the whole school environment.”

Any CHS student has a story about coming to school with a stuffy nose and a sore throat. During my first history test of the year, so many kids were sneezing and coughing that my history teacher would put on her mask to answer students’ questions. This uncomfortable situation could have and should have been avoided.

Another student talked about the added stress that comes with taking AP classes, and how that affects her ability to miss school. 

“If I feel that I can make it through school without feeling too bad then I’m going to go to school because I want to avoid missing school as much as possible. If I miss all my classes that’s a lot of work that I have to makeup plus all the homework,” Said senior Natalie Blanke. 

It’s not just students sacrificing their physical health. The two major Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, fell on weekdays this year. Some Jewish students felt that they couldn’t miss school to celebrate. 

Because you have to worry about missing school, there’s stress added to it that shouldn’t exist in the first place. So it’s not as enjoyable as it could be. Because the whole time you might be out [at] services or eating dinner, but [you think] Well, right now I’m missing my AP class, what am I going to do?” said Isabel Erdmann, a senior. “I think it should not be this much stress on students to just celebrate their religion. I think that’s kind of unfair.”

Missing a holiday or a sick day usually is only one day, but when students miss multiple, the stress increases. During the third week of September, the Clayton School district had the annual sixth-grade camp. Camp lasts four weekdays, and high school students are asked through nominations to be camp counselors. Lavanya Mani, a sophomore, was the counselor for Hawks Haven. She spoke about how fun it was, but then said she wasn’t sure if she would go next year.

 “I mean, I really want to go back because it’s super fun. It’s a really great experience, but I’ve definitely had second thoughts about it because as a junior, I don’t know if I’m going to be able to keep up with that. I know a lot of juniors went but I also know that it was really difficult to get back.”      

This is in no way advocating for students to have the ability to skip school for no reason. But, students should not have to come to school on days when their physical health affects their quality of work, when they are supposed to be celebrating, or when they were asked to by the school district. CHSs’ first priority should be the cognitive and physical well-being of their students, not their national ranking.