Chronic absenteeism a problem for some Osceola virtual students

District notifying parents of issue

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Osceola County Superintendent Dr. Debra Pace said district officials have seen an increase in chronic absenteeism among students at home doing distance learning.

She said contributing to the issue is how easy it can be for children to just turn their computer camera off and not partake in the school day.

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That’s why Pace said the district has turned to a text messaging system to let parents know.

“It absolutely has exacerbated absenteeism, it has exacerbated learning struggles and we want to do everything that we can this semester to close those gaps between our digital and face-to-face learners,” Pace said.

She said with the distance learning option this year, available as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, school leaders are seeing some students miss class at a significant rate.

“We’ve identified students with between five and 50% absences for the first semester, that we are now launching a very aggressive communication campaign,” Pace said.

The number of students is 4,687 to be exact, according to Pace.

She said text messages went out to the parents of those students and a follow up text will be sent on Jan. 26, along with a letter that will go out the first week of February.

“We’ve also identified 136 students with whom we’ve not been able to engage and our social workers and SROs are going to be making home visits to try and find out what is really going on with those families,” Pace said.

She said with distance learning and students not being in the classroom, it’s harder to get them to engage in a full day of school remotely.

“It’s not unusual for a child to check in, turn the camera off and then potentially get distracted by a video game or, you know, some other task going on at the home,” Pace said.

Pace said this effort has been underway since October when they started comparing the data between those learning from home and those doing face-to-face and noticed attendance was an issue.

She said she’s hopeful this initiative will be successful.

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