Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

But Superintendent Walt Wegener says school has "chronic attendance issue"

By Jayson Jacoby


Baker High School's graduation rate continues to rise.

But Baker Schools Superintendent Walt Wegener said that improving trend has happened despite what he termed a "chronic attendance issue" at the high school.

In 2013, 80 percent of BHS students graduated on time, according to a report released Thursday by the Oregon Department of Education.

That's up from 78 percent in 2012, and from 72 percent the previous two years.

Oregon's statewide average for 2013 was 67 percent.

Although Baker students are graduating at a higher rate than the Oregon average, they're also missing class much more often.

During the 2012-13 school year, 35.5 percent of BHS students missed at least 10 percent of school days, according to a study by The Oregonian.

The statewide average that year was 16.8 percent.

Baker High School's absentee rates ranged from 30.6 percent of freshmen - one of whom missed 66 days during the year - to 43.6 percent of seniors.

Wegener conceded that school officials can't compel students to attend classes every day.

But he believes the better-than-average graduation rate shows that students are prospering when they are in class.

"We concentrate on making it a success when we get the opportunity to work with kids," he said. "But we recognize that we don't always get that opportunity. We try to maximize the opportunity during the time we have with your sons and daughters."

Wegener said he believes Baker High School's high absentee rates reflect, in part, the relative lack of prosperity among residents.

In some cases, he said, a family might have to choose between sending a student to school, or having that student stay home to watch younger siblings while the parent or parents works.

"We're not a rich community," Wegener said. "People have to prioritize some times, and school might not always be the highest priority."

The Oregonian study, however, shows that among low-income students, Baker High School's absentee rate of 40.8 percent last year was considerably higher than the state average of 20.4 percent.

Other local graduation rates from 2013:

andbull; Pine-Eagle: 94 percent (class size, 17 students)

andbull; Powder Valley: 88 percent (16 students)

andbull; Baker AllPrep Early College: 70 percent (37 students)

andbull; Burnt River: 50 percent (two students)

andbull; Huntington: 44 percent (nine students)

andbull; Baker Web Academy, an online "virtual" school: 19 percent (68 students).