ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – One of the biggest challenges of the distance learning brought on by the coronavirus pandemic is making sure students attend their virtual classes.
For students who don’t have access to a school or personal computer, they have to fill out the paper packets sent out to them each week. So we wanted to know just how many students were actually checking in and how many of them are not.
Orange County Public Schools, the fourth largest school district in the state, reports most kids are checking in and completing their assignments. The district confirms there are still thousands of students they are still trying to make contact with, and trying to confirm if they are not only still enrolled, but OK.
The district confirms there are currently 212,000 students enrolled in Orange County Public Schools, and during the last week of April, the district was trying to track down 1.4% of those students. The district reports during the first week of May, that number dropped to 0.97%. But that tiny percentage still adds up to more than 2,085 students who are not completing their distance learning.
So what is the district doing to track them down?
A spokesperson with OCPS said once a teacher has tried to reach a student several times without contact, it goes up the chain to the school administration to try to make contact any way they can.
Sometimes that means principals, counselors, and even school resource officers are going out and knocking on doors to check on students and their families.
News 6 talked to one principal in north Orlando, who says she is doing everything she can to keep track of her students, and to find those who are missing.
"Currently we have one student that we are trying to reach that we have not been able to get in contact with," said Kimberly Hankerson, the principal of Riverside Elementary School. "We've done home visits for this student, we've made phone calls, tried to reach out on Facebook Messenger. We've even enlisted the help of our SRO, our social worker, our guidance counselor - but this is just one student we have been unable to find."
Hankerson says even today, she was back at the apartment complex where that kindergarten student reportedly lives.
“I’m assuming that the student has moved,” said Hankerson. “And that’s what we are finding with a lot of our students - that they come across hardship and they’ve moved. Or they’re living with someone else right now. It is just different situations and scenarios for different families.”
Hankerson says it’s hard not knowing what has happened to one of her students, even though she is just one of the 562 kids that attend Riverside.
"It's scary," admits Hankerson. "It's sort of like I want to put up a wanted poster saying has anyone seen this child?"
But Hankerson says she won’t give up looking until she finds that student - and makes sure she’s OK.
“You don’t sit easy until you know all of them are OK,” said Hankerson. “And just knowing we have this one we have to find is still disheartening.”
Hankerson said they’ve made hundreds of calls just at Riverside alone, checking in with parents and students and emergency contacts who have at some point not completed an assignment since distance learning began.
For 8-year-old Aiden Cosme and his mom Danielle, distance learning has become a new challenge they’re tackling together and they don’t mind his teachers and principal at riverside elementary checking in.
“They reach out to us all the time,” said Danielle Cosme.“My son’s actual teacher reaches out. We see her on a video call. we get calls, we get texts, emails. they’re posting on social media.”
Daniel is not only a parent at Riverside, but she’s also the PTA president, and says she is concerned that more than 2,000 students in the Orange County Public School District have still not checked in with their teachers or their schools.
"It's a pretty sad statistic," said Cosme. "Hopefully before the end of the year, the schools are able to catch up with them. I know schools are trying to do a lot of communication to reach the students."
Cosme said she’s just glad the principal and the district are doing everything they can to track down missing students and to make sure they’re okay.
“I think it’s really important, I think they’re doing a good job,” said Cosme.