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Catalina Foothills High School implemented a new “tardy sweep” policy that rounds up students who arrive late to school for unexcused reasons and detains them in a separate room for a class period.

Being late to school was becoming a culture, and that needed to be stopped, said Angela Chomokos, the principal. The school had more than 7,000 tardy instances in the past year.

“On a regular basis, we saw students arriving to class late after stopping for coffee and bagels on the way to school,” she said.

Students are considered tardy if they arrive after the tardy bell, which rings about 10 minutes after the first bell, which rings most days at 8:35 a.m.

Under the new policy, which was announced last month, tardy students are detained by teachers and security monitors at the school gate, in the hallways and around campus and sent to a room where they stay until their next class.

There are exceptions to the rule, however, Chomokos said. Students who are late because school buses were late arriving or because of doctor’s appointments or other excused reasons aren’t required to spend time in the tardy room. If there is a test during the first period, tardy students are given a pass to go to their regular class and assigned alternative detention times.

“The program is simply designed to encourage and promote the importance of punctuality and commitment to our students who are on time and deserve an uninterrupted class the first hour of the day,” she said.

While such tardy sweeps aren’t unheard of in education, parts of Catalina Foothills High’s policy has some parents concerned. The policy says that while in the tardy room, students are not supposed to study or do schoolwork, among other things.

Jim Tofel, a father whose two daughters attend the school, said while he understands the school’s good intentions in trying to stop tardiness, he does not believe the approach is effective.

“I understand the need to discourage kids from being tardy, but it seems like there’s got to be a more constructive way of doing that,” he said.

The “no studying” rule was put in place because school administrators thought some students might abuse the policy by intentionally missing a period to catch up on homework in the tardy room for another class, the principal said.

A Tucson Unified School District spokeswoman said she does not know of schools in her district that have a similar sweep policy. Students who are tardy typically have to sign in at the front office, but they are not held in a room.

Sunnyside Unified School District’s schools occasionally do sweeps, but students are promptly returned to class after they have been assigned detention, said Mary Veres, a Sunnyside spokeswoman.

So far, the tardy policy is proving to be effective, Chomokos, the Catalina Foothills High principal said. Only about 12 to 16 students each morning are in the tardy room since it was put in place. The school has more than 1,700 students.

“I see students hurrying to class in the morning,” she said. “It’s working.”

Contact reporter Yoohyun Jung at 573-4243 or On Twitter: @yoohyun_jung

Data reporter

Data reporter on the investigative team for the Arizona Daily Star