The Proviso Township High Schools District 209 school board is taking steps to increase parental engagement in the lives of the district’s most vulnerable students with the recent passage of an updated parental involvement policy.

The policy now features a range of new incentives designed to intensify the frequency and depth of involvement, which includes a meeting that parents of students with academic, behavioral and/or attendance problems may be required to attend if those incentives have been exhausted.

During a Jan. 9 regular meeting, the school board voted unanimously on a final version of the updated policy. Board member Rodney Alexander, who introduced the measures, said the passage of the upgraded policy now paves the way for its implementation, a large part of which will be in the hands of the district’s three building principals and their leadership teams.

Last November, Alexander, who heads up the 30-plus-member Parent and Community Engagement Committee, rolled out the idea of the district creating a mandatory parent meeting to improve the academic performance and instructional setting of students in D209.

Alexander said at the time that “the hurdle” of implementing the mandatory meeting would be “making it policy.”

“Once we get it made policy, we will be meeting to develop a sub-committee to figure out what’s best for the dynamics of the district and how we can be considerate and not do this to be punitive,” Alexander said at the time. “We will be sensitive and considerate about how we do it.”

On Jan. 9, Alexander doubled down on that point, pointing out that a policy that includes a mandatory meeting with district administration members isn’t “as punitive sounding as most might take it.”

According to the policy, the mandatory meeting won’t kick in unless the administration has exhausted a range of incentives to reward adherence to the School Parent Compact signed by students and their parents/guardians, which is designed to stimulate parental support and student achievement.

The compact, which was already in place, requires parents to “agree to review and acknowledge” their students’ completed assignments, grades, truancy and disciplinary actions, among other requirements, through an electronic performance tracking system.

The district, under the previous version of its parental involvement policy, was already required to provide internet access for parents who don’t have it to enable them to adhere to the terms of the compact.

The updated policy expands internet access for those parents by making rooms available inside the school buildings provided “at hours that allow parents/guardians with long work schedules to gain access outside normal school hours.”

Alexander’s policy changes allow building principals and their leadership teams the flexibility to put in place a range of incentives — including “the ability to exercise the privilege of attending extracurricular events, such as dances, games, and club activities, and also participation in athletic events” — to encourage further adherence to the compact.

According to the updated policy, students can be removed from participating in extracurricular events for any reason set forth in the student handbook, including but not limited to, failure to maintain strong academic standing, repeated disciplinary infractions and/or attendance concerns.”

Once those extracurricular privileges are revoked, a student will not be able to regain them “unless and until the parent, guardian or other person exercising custody of the student […] attends a meeting with the district administration to discuss the concerns regarding the student.”

Alexander said the updated policy gives administration “the ability to be innovative” when it comes to incentivizing students’ academic success and parental engagement.

If those incentives don’t work, Alexander added, “We now want parents to come in and save [their children].”