When the Booneville School Board officially adopts a student handbook, which it is expected to do during the August meeting, students will likely have an opportunity to earn exemptions for semester tests in both the fall and spring.

Currently a student can, by meeting grade and attendance criteria, be exempt only for the spring semester. That, junior high principal Josh Walker told the board last Tuesday, has led to some attendance apathy for students in the first semester.

A survey of district teachers conducted by the administration found that 76 percent of teachers believed the district has sufficient incentives for attendance.

“If you have a student who has missed three days and has made all Bs, they knew if they miss one more day then they wouldn’t be exempt from the test,” said Walker. “It helps with our attendance.”

The school district has, as recently as 2010, allowed for first and second semester exemptions.

“We started to make the first semester test mandatory so students would have to take a comprehensive test but now with Aspire testing, now we do AP testing, nine-week testing, ACT, I asked (teachers) if they feel there is adequate testing in the junior high and high school to prepare a student for college testing,” said Walker “Ninety-seven percent said we do.”

Asked if the opportunity for an exemption encourages kids to come to school and make good grades, 86 percent of the teachers said yes. Finally, just more than two in three, 68 percent, said they would not be opposed to adding the first semester exemption.

“What we’d like to do is to take a year and go back to how it used to be and compare (attendance) data,” said Walker.

The proposed change is the only major change to the handbook, Walker said.