In a post-pandemic world, a great deal has changed for the entire global population. However, it seems that, specifically, our children’s connection and desire to attend traditional in-person classes have also been severely affected.
According to a recent study completed by Thomas Dee, a Stanford University professor, along with The Associated Press found that an additional 6.5 million students have become chronically absent during the 2021-2022 school year in comparison to the 2018-2019 school year before the pandemic.
The study collected data from forty states, as well as Washington, DC, and is an extremely comprehensive account of student absenteeism around the country. It found that more than 25% of students nationwide are now chronically absent, which means they missed more than eighteen days throughout the year.
Absenteeism is a huge problem for the country’s youth for several reasons. Absent students miss out on important instruction, meals, counseling, socialization, and of course, the knowledge they need to continue their education.
Though we know it certainly is happening, it’s difficult to pinpoint why absenteeism has become such a looming problem. Some students are missing school due to housing instability, transportation issues, financial problems, and various other at-home issues. However, those problems have always existed.
Today, experts in the field believe that new problems have surfaced after the pandemic, which is making students miss so much school. These issues include social insecurities, school staffing shortages, and the kids’ general feelings of being unwelcome or uncomfortable in school.
Many of these students experienced school from home for one to two years during their formative social years. Even those who had friends in the classroom pre-pandemic no longer feel a connection to their peers.
Another prevalent problem is that both children and parents now feel it necessary to stay home if there is even a threat of illness due to pandemic panic. Our children’s health is important to us, and if staying home means staying healthy, many families are choosing just that.
Many children with chronic health problems no longer even have the option to attend school because their district no longer has a resident nurse. School nurses around the country found jobs in hospitals during the pandemic. And because of the financial stability hospital jobs provided, they never returned once the schools reopened.
Parents around the country are reporting that it’s increasingly challenging to force their children to attend school, and even their teachers understand why. Elmer Roldan of Communities in Schools of Los Angeles explained the issue quite clearly: “For almost two years, we told families that school can look different and that schoolwork could be accomplished in times outside of the traditional 8-to-3 day. Families got used to that.”
With parents and children not seeing the point of in-person education, under-staffed schools without nurses or enough teachers for individual care, and the many other issues that families around the country are facing at home, it seems that the absenteeism problem in our schools isn’t going to improve any time soon.