Johnson County Schools students had their first days of the 2018-2019 school year Tuesday, picking back up where they left off for a transition that Superintendent Thom Cochran called “seamless.”

Cochran detailed many new programs starting with the new school year, including a new onboarding program for new hires that ranges from one to three years, depending on employee experience. One-to-one technology initiatives are still a focus of the district, alongside attendance improvement, Cochran said.

That focus is shifting away from centering on lessening unexcused absences and instead looking at chronic absence, whether excused or unexcused.

“We’ve added some layers to attendance requirements,” Cochran said. “Like, anything after ten days, even with doctor’s notes, they’ll now have to have a medical excusal form, signed by the doctor. We’re gonna try to shift our focus from unexcused absence and truancy to chronic absence, which is anything over 10 percent or more of the school year. We’re not worried if they’re excused or unexcused, we just want them in school. If they’re not in school, they’re not learning.”

Cochran said the district is also doubling down on virtual learning programs in an attempt to make diplomas from Johnson Central High School a possibility, even for homeschooled children. 

Even with the addition of these programs, Cochran said the transition from summer break to starting school back was among the smoothest he’s ever seen.

“All of our students, all of our staff, all of our parents were eager, it seemed like, to get back involved,” Cochran said. “It was like riding a bicycle, it was like we never stopped, like we’d been in school for weeks or months. It was smooth, atmospheres all seemed very positive and everyone seemed excited. We’re very happy with the way everything went … our opening day was very good, a lot of it was student-led and very student-focused.

“We’re working on our culture and climate, positive attitudes,” he continued. “Of course, attendance and safety.”

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