One student, one story: Lyon schools battle 38% absenteeism one case at a time

Lyon County School District’s chronic absenteeism rate during the 2022-23 school year was reported at 38.1%, about 4% above the state average, according to Nevada’s accountability portal,

Lyon County School District’s chronic absenteeism rate during the 2022-23 school year was reported at 38.1%, about 4% above the state average, according to Nevada’s accountability portal,

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Lyon County School District’s chronic absenteeism rate during the 2022-23 school year was reported at 38.1%, about 4% above the state average, according to Nevada’s accountability portal,

At approximately 9,053 students, Lyon is the state’s fourth-largest district. As did others, the rural area experienced post-pandemic struggles with school attendance.

Administrators told the Appeal that encouraging students to return to seats full-time after campuses were closed in March 2020 was a struggle.

Damon Etter, LCSD’s professional development and data manager, said working with families to support and accommodate students’ needs has been an important message for school officials.

“The pandemic piece was a negative impact,” Etter said. “Everything was unpredictable. There were so many factors. We’re trying to bounce back from that now that we’re more consistent and don’t have kids quarantining.”


Lyon’s chronic absenteeism rate in the past two years has increased. In 2021-22, it peaked at 39.2% while the state was 36%. The year before, as the pandemic presented, it measured at 18.5% compared to Nevada’s 31.2%.

Superintendent Wayne Workman said Lyon’s mitigation strategies to reduce the number of students who are missing classes more frequently this year “are as unique as each student themselves.”

“Our schools and school leaders literally reach out personally in an attempt to discover the attendance issue,” Workman said. “Additionally, the Lyon CSD chose to target the ‘at-risk’ funding from the Pupil-Centered Funding Plan into hiring College and Career Readiness interventionists at every school in the district (and depending on school size, some have more than one).”

Interventionists address barriers keeping students from attending school and will work with a school’s Multi-Tiered Systems of Support team to re-engage the student, Workman said. A district’s MTSS framework is its academic and behavioral components of screening, monitoring, prevention and data-based decision-making. Educators are provided data and resources, which can include other professionals, to figure out the best learning outcomes for students.

In the Carson City School District, for example, Carson High School has a dedicated attendance interventionist communicating and connecting with students when they miss class time. The strategy was to help CCSD’s overall 25% chronic absenteeism rate.


Etter, formerly a vice principal for Dayton Intermediate School in Dayton, said he is new to his role as the district’s data manager and enjoys working with curriculum.

“My job is to create these data systems and make these decisions and see if they’re having the impact we’re wanting,” he said. “Everybody gives me a bad time because I love (Microsoft) Excel.”

But for Etter, one of his most important functions is work with the district’s MTSS team to determine how to be more preventative in its approach for struggling students at the Tier 2 and 3 levels for interventions. Generally, for most districts, if the MTSS works as a pyramid, then Tier 1 — the bottom level of the system — concentrates on a “universal” level focusing on all students’ needs, with Tier 2 concentrating on students with some risk factors and Tier 3 having a more intensive approach, or students at high risk.

“Individually, we’re looking at each (student) and if they have high absenteeism and what’s the story behind it,” he said. “If there’s no call from the parents or there’s a medical thing, it still counts against them.

“(The school staff) is trying to make an individual plan and they create an intervention and a daily check-in or strategy or support as a way to improve the student’s attendance. We have some principals and vice principals picking kids up from home. … They’re going above and beyond.”

Etter said as a former vice principal himself, he once had a student who experienced severe anxiety about returning to school and it took time to build a relationship.

“We connected them with mental health resources as additional supports, and that’s just getting to the root of each individual kid, and that’s why we like our (College and Career Readiness) interventionists,” Etter said. “We look at (our students) as a story and not just as a number and getting them the support they need.”


Etter said with respect to absenteeism, focusing on the students who are considered Tier 2 or 3 — the at-risk youth — requires stronger interventions, but some of Lyon’s communities are struggling with transportation to get kids to school because they’re so spread out in the county.

“Fernley has a higher transiency rate,” he said. “Rural areas like Silver Springs, most of the kids take the bus and there are not a lot of parent drop-offs. That’s a major form of transportation.”

Etter said to help improve Lyon’s rate overall, families and community members should continue to encourage to keep their students attending school.

“It’s all about getting to know the kids,” he said. “It’s not about a number but getting to know their kids. That’s one of our big pushes.”

Workman reinforced Lyon staff members’ commitment to helping students be successful in school.

“Sadly, school and district staff are required to do so much more these days just to engage our students (and) families in their education,” he said. “However, the amazing staff in the Lyon CSD are committed to doing whatever it takes to help our students achieve their personal learning goals and dreams.”


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