Marion County teens most unaccounted students during distance learning

Nearly 900 students unaccounted in May, compared to more than 3,000 in April

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Marion County Schools reported nearly 900 unaccounted students in the district beginning in May. This down from more than 3,000 in April.

Most of those students are from the southeast part of the county where district officials said, is mostly rural and students may not have access to the internet.

"Not being able to contact one student is concerning. We have several hundred that we've not been able to contact. We care about them, we're concerned about them," said spokesperson Kevin Christian.

The school district said teachers first try to contact their students online. If students can’t be reached online teachers will try calling. After three failed attempts, it’s reported to administrators and social workers. Safe Schools specialists are sent to their homes to try to make contact. Safe Schools help manage campus security and are made up of former law enforcement officers.

"I feel great about the job being done, but at the same time, still compiling the list of those we were not able to contact so we can get them caught up. I have gone to some homes where they've moved," said Safe Schools Security Specialist Cynthia Barnes. "If they are at home we just get their information and deliver that message. Find out what is going on and make sure they know that it's important that they keep in contact with the school."

The school with the highest number of unaccounted students is Lake Weir High School with 182. The district said the high schools show the highest number of students who haven't made contact with their teachers during distance learning mainly because they hold the largest population of students in the district.

"You have cases where some students no longer physically live in Marion County because they've moved. You have cases where some students are working to provide for their families. You have some students that simply have no way of communicating," said Christian.

The district said many people may not know that distance learning is at about a 98 percent attendance rate right now, compared to the 93 percent attendance rate when students were in the classroom. School officials said they understand the circumstances for which students may not be able to log in to do their work, but want to make sure they're safe.

The district said if the Safe Schools specialists have any reason to believe a student is in danger after visiting their home, they report their experiences to social services to investigate further.

About the Author: