NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Connecticut public school districts are facing the growing crisis of students missing a large chunk of the school year.
Of the nearly 19,000 students in New Haven Public Schools, 42% have missed at least 10% of school days. Five percent have missed at least 18 of the first 45 days of school.
“There was a spike in COVID and other respiratory illnesses at the start of the school year,” said Justin Harmon, the district’s director of communications and marketing. “Some of our older students work to help support their families or provide childcare.”
Students are considered to be chronically absent if they miss at least 10% of school days.
The numbers are something New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker said are shocking, but not surprising.
“You will not get this time back, and so it’s vital for parents and families to make sure that they’re doing everything they can to get their kids into schools so that they can become productive adults,” he said.
It’s a similar concern for Hartford Public Schools, where 28% of its 16,000 students are chronically absent. However, that is still down from 45% from the same time period last year.
“Some students are missing significant blocks of time,” said Jesse Sugarman, the senior advisor for strategy and institutional advancement for the district. “Those are the students that we want to engage quickly to make sure that that doesn’t become a pattern and that they don’t get too far behind, so that they can actually recover and get off that chronic absentee list.”
Schools are increasing their outreach in response, including home visits, offering additional mentoring and creating other learning opportunities.
Patrice McCarthy, with the Connecticut Association of Boards of Educators, said the academic effects of the pandemic will linger.
“The challenges of making sure that families feel safe and comfortable sending their children to school, and have the other supports that they need — we’re going to see those needs continue for a number of years,” she said.