MARION COUNTY, Fla. – After what some parents and teachers described as a smooth first day of school, News 6 learned that out of the 43,000 projected enrollment, more than 11,000 students in Marion County didn't show up for traditional or online classes. Marion County Public Schools said that number is not alarming right now.
“Never do we have our full projected student enrollment on the first day of school... even on the fifth day of school. A lot of people aren’t used to going to school until after Labor Day, those from up north that move here. So they don’t even know school has started,” Marion County Schools spokesperson Kevin Christian said.
Christian also said kindergarteners have a staggered start date, so many aren't in school yet. Another issue could have been students learning online. Those who weren't able to login because of technical problems were automatically marked absent.
We reached out to other Central Florida school districts about their attendance and heard back from Orange County Public Schools. Out of the projected 212,000 students enrolled this year, the district reported only about 176,000 students attending online or face-to-face instruction on Aug. 21.
That means nearly 36,000 students didn't show up on the first day of school in Orange County.
Seminole County could not immediately provide us attendance numbers for the first day of school in its district.
Marion County Schools expects the attendance numbers to go up in the next few days, but also said there's a plan in place to locate students who still don't show up for class.
“If we go five, six, seven days and we still have that number of students missing, that’s going to trigger the bells and we’re going to get those plans in action very quickly,” Christian said.
That plan starts with teachers and principals reaching out, attempting to contact the student.
“If that doesn’t work, we advance to the district level. We have social workers that go out and do a visit to the home. We also have Safe Schools personnel who drive by to make sure the children are at home,” Christian said.
The social workers would make sure there are no signs of abuse or neglect.
If the district social worker can't contact the student or their family, that case will move forward to the Florida Department of Children and Families.
The Marion County Schools district said with the different learning options, it may take some time to get a better idea of what attendance looks like. But it is confident the attendance rate will quickly rise to over the 90% projected enrollment by the end of the week.