The new Superintendent of Missoula County Public Schools, Dr. Rob Watson spoke with KGVO News on Friday while several hundred of his students had left school to take part in the Missoula Climate Strike.

One of the comments made by a female student at Caras Park specifically addressed a perceived lack in effective climate change education in high schools.

“We are withholding our consent to be taught by teachers in a school district that do not take seriously the ecological destruction of our living world. We are joining with students across the globe who can no longer accept the lack of leadership and courage demonstrated by the adult world, and in this case, educators.”

“I would just say it’s an ever-changing curriculum area that we’re trying to address,” said Superintendent Watson. “I don’t think we’re doing enough, so in some ways I might actually agree with her. I think we need to keep looking at that science curriculum and make sure we’re keeping it up to date. We do talk about it in several parts of our curriculum, but a student’s experience is a student’s experience. I would love the opportunity to talk to the students and gain the sense of what their experience has been and I’m sure there are ways that we can improve.”

Watson said he would be open to meeting with groups of students to listen to their concerns about the climate change curriculum.

“I would like to set up a time when I can give them my full attention, but yes, that’s something that we welcome, talking with students, not just on this issue, but on a lot of different issues,” he said.

Watson said as public employees, he and his staff are required to stay away from the politics in any issue, but explained the policy regarding excused and unexcused absences from school.

“What we did this time was that we encouraged kids that wanted to participate that they have their parents excuse the absence,” he said. “The reason is that we have to account for students. When they’re not at home and they’re in school we’re legally responsible   for them and we need to account for their whereabouts, so that’s why we ask parents to excuse the absence. The unexcused absences tend to pile up a little faster and get you into a little more trouble, but with the excused absences I think there’s a little more leeway.”

Following is a portion of the MCPS student handbook on excused and unexcused absences:

Students are required to attend all assigned classes and/or other instructional activities every day school is in session, unless the student has a valid excuse for absence, in accordance with Section 20-5-103, MCA.

 

Excused Absences: These include family authorized absences and school authorized absences. The following reasons shall be sufficient to constitute excused absences:

Family authorized excused absences:

Personal illness

Family emergency or death in the family

Medical or dental treatment

Other activities as approved by the school.

School authorized excused absences

Approved field trips

Interscholastic competitions and events

Other activities as approved by the school

 

Unexcused Absences: - These are absences which are not authorized by the parent/guardian or the school. The following absences are examples of absences which will not be excused:

Leaving school premises without authorization from the nurse, the attendance office or the principals’ offices;

Failing to attend class (while remaining on the premises) without advanced permission;

Family trips/vacations for which no prior arrangement have been made with the school;

Other absences not authorized by the school or parent/guardian.

Reporting Student Absences

When a student must be absent from school, the parent/guardian is requested to notify the school’s attendance office, whenever possible, in advance of the absence.  If the school attendance office does not receive advance notice, the school will make a reasonable effort to contact a parent/guardian to verify the student absence.  If the school is unable to contact a student’s parent/guardian after a reasonable effort has been made, the absence will be recorded as unexcused.  Single or multiple absences that are not verified by a parent/guardian, or which have been recorded as unexcused, may be handled as part of the disciplinary process.