The final numbers are in and Merritt Secondary School has exceeded its attendance goal for 2013-14.

The school’s goal was to reduce the percentage of students missing 16 days of school or more from 39 per cent down to 30 per cent this year.

When the numbers were finally crunched, the high school recorded just 21 per cent of students missing 16 days of school or more, MSS vice principal Karen Goetz told the Herald.

Goetz said there are all sorts of factors that could have contributed to the lower than expected percentage.

“I think a lot of it is just persistence. I mean we just keep on it.

“We’ve developed good relationships with kids and we know who they are. We talk to them everyday. When they’re missing, we know it and we say something to them.

“We’ve been calling home — all of those kinds of things. I think just sticking with it has made a difference,” Goetz said.

MSS principal Bill Lawrence told the Herald that the school struggled to complete all the action items it had planned in regards to attendance, but did complete some of them.

One of the action items that Lawrence said the school did conduct was a survey of attenders and non-attenders in order to determine why students do or do not attend class.

Rewarding good behaviours was a bit of a challenge, Lawrence said.

“We’ve struggled a little bit with rewarding the sorts of behaviours that we would like to see happen — f you attend for a week you get a chance at an iPad, that sort of thing. It’s just one of those things that we just didn’t get to,” Lawrence said.

In-house statistics showed that over the previous two school years 39 per cent of MSS students missed more than 16 days per year.

In turn, those 39 per cent were responsible for 70 per cent of failed courses at MSS.

As of the end of April, MSS had 178 students missing 16 or more days of school. They represented 29.9 per cent of Merritt Secondary’s total population of 574 students.

Job action — the result of a labour dispute between the B.C. Teachers’ Union and the provincial government over a new contract — resulted in five days of missed classes for all MSS students in May and June.

Goetz said when taking into consideration that, in the absence of job action the students would have been in class writing school based exams or wrapping up classes between June 18 and 20, MSS students missed eight days of school due to job action.

Goetz said she isn’t sure what kind of impact job action had on the attendance numbers for this year.

One of the completed action items MSS is moving ahead with is examining alternative school timetables to determine if there are any that would promote better attendance.

Lawrence said they had a timetable committee this year, which produced a recommendation for changing Grade 8 schedules, so that their core classes are in the morning and their electives are in the afternoon.

For more on the new Grade 8 schedule at MSS pick up a copy of next Tuesday’s Merritt Herald