Missing school is a big deal in Kristy Warren's fourth-grade classroom. For the teacher, yes. But more so for the students.
"We're like, ‘Why are you missing a day?'" said 10-year-old Dasani Walton.
Walton and her fourth-grade classmates got so serious about perfect attendance this year they were awarded a field trip Monday to the Quinlan Visual Arts Center for having the best record at Gainesville Exploration Academy.
Four other classes from Gainesville's elementary schools also were given field trips through the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce's Partners in Education Program. The initiative connects schools to businesses with the goal of creating a more qualified workforce.
The students from Gainesville Exploration arrived at the Quinlan on Monday morning and headed into a downstairs art room where they quickly went to work pounding out pottery clay. After creating a design with stencils, stamps and paint, their work will be glazed and fire treated into a finished piece of pottery.
Mary Ann Klimek, an art teacher at the Quinlan, volunteered her time to teach the five classes, the first of which took place last Monday. The last field trip will be held Wednesday with a group of pre-kindergarten students.
While she had finished examples from the other classes in the back room, Klimek chose not to show them to the students because she wanted them to pull on their own creativity.
"You purposefully don't show kids what to do because then everyone does the same thing," she said.
Warren said she put a chart at the front of her classroom and used it to track her students' attendance from September to December.
"They would get mad if someone was absent because they were fearful that they wouldn't win," she said.
At one table Monday morning, a group of boys focused mostly on the dinosaur stamps while decorating their pottery.
Across the room, three girls compared their attendance notes as they pressed butterflies and flowers into their clay.
"I hate missing school," said 10-year-old Alani Mydell. "So I only missed one day because I was tardy because I was sick. But I love school so I try not to miss any days because it takes away my education."