WATCH: ‘Solutionaries: Why aren’t kids going to class?’ | The learning barriers many students face

Solutions journalism aims to find real answers to today’s problems

ORLANDO, Fla. – Think back to your childhood and imagine one of your back-to-school supplies lists.

It likely included pencils, glue sticks and notebooks — essential items for any student.

Not included on the list: laundry detergent, blankets, running water, snacks, home internet, toothpaste or ice packs, yet these are all fundamental supplies that are vital to ensuring a child is ready for school every day.

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Even when students are provided all of these needs, many kids have trouble focusing or they struggle to care about school.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows the number of kids reported being “chronically” absent from school — defined as missing at least 10% of the school year — has skyrocketed since the pandemic.

Michigan’s largest public education system recognized the trend and hired a team of attendance agents a few years ago to figure out why students were not coming to school.

Getting ahead for college

For college students, finals are over and summer has arrived.

But school isn’t out.

Taking summer courses isn’t always about catching up. It can actually be the perfect time to get ahead.

Seminole State College allows what they call “transient students” from other colleges and universities to take colleges at their campus during the summer.

“We’re really encouraging students who maybe cannot find classes at their host or home institution to come in summer and spend some time with us and take some classes and stay ahead,” Admissions Director Leticia McCray.

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An innovative solution

A student’s health or physical disability is one reason why some children are marked as chronically absent from school.

For Lake Nona High School student Shannon Hayes, basic virtual learning wasn’t giving her the experience she needed to grow and interact with her fellow students.

The 14-year-old has spinal muscular atrophy and attends class with a little help from a robot called Vgo.

She joined Matt Austin and Ginger Gadsden during an interview on Florida’s Fourth Estate.

“They can see me, I can see them, they can also hear me and I can hear them,” Hayes said.

Hayes is very susceptible to infection, so learning from home makes more sense for her.

“This robot gives me more freedom, it feels like I’m there. With Zoom, it’s kinda more restricted. You can’t really move around, you can’t really look around,” she said. “With the robot, I can look around, if I want to talk to my partner, someone sitting next to me I can do that, or if I want to ask the teacher questions. It just feels so much more interactive.”

Students’ mental health

Let’s check out another Florida high school student finding solutions for learning.

Nira Goyal is the founder of Teen Mental Reset and connects kids with mental health resources, with the goal of keeping them in class and saving lives.

As a teenager, she knows firsthand the stress teenagers face every day, from fitting in and planning their future to fears of a school tragedy and navigating a global pandemic.

“I wasn’t really getting out of the house. And I think so many people felt that and I think it’s really brought attention to the fact that mental health needs to be spoken about,” Goyal said.

She writes blogs and creates videos explaining topics affecting mental health and gives speeches about the importance of reaching out to others for help.

Student safety

When kids feel comfortable sharing their experiences and feelings, schools also become safer.

Let’s look at a district focusing on solutions for school threats by building trust.

A new episode of Solutionaries is available every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. on News 6 and on News 6+ for your smart TV (Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Google TV).

About the Author:

Katrina Scales is a producer for the News 6+ Takeover at 5:30 p.m. She also writes and voices the podcast Your Florida Daily. Katrina was born and raised in Brevard County and started her journalism career in radio before joining News 6 in June 2021.