Student absences skyrocketed in Columbus last school year
More than 30% of Ohio's K-12 students were chronically absent this past school year, nearly double the pre-pandemic rate.
- The rate was even higher in some area districts, including 65% in Columbus City Schools, per the state's yearly school report cards.
Why it matters: The new data is another illustration of how the pandemic is disrupting kids' lives and academic achievement.
- The state defines chronic absence as missing at least 10% of instructional time for any reason, including illness.
Between the lines: Last year, schools were advised to send students home to quarantine if they were exposed to COVID-19 at school while not masked or fully vaccinated.
- Under new CDC guidelines, this is no longer the case. Students are advised to wear a mask but quarantines are not required.
Zoom in: Students who are Black, economically disadvantaged or have disabilities had substantially higher absences, per the state data.
- Chronic absenteeism can be a symptom of pandemic-heightened challenges, such as mental health and economic stressors.
Of note: While most local districts' absences got worse from 2021-22, a few actually improved.
- Columbus reduced its rate from 74.6% to 65%, South-Western from 56% to 41% and Whitehall from 46% to 42%.
- The rates are still significantly higher than pre-pandemic, though.
What's next: Educators are working to reconnect with students, including in Columbus, which placed attendance specialists in buildings to support families, a spokesperson tells Axios.
- The district also recently renewed a contract with nonprofit Attendance Works using $190,000 in federal funds.
- Stay in the Game, an attendance-focused partnership with the Crew, launches today.
Meanwhile, the state budget allocated up to $7 million to attendance recovery through the Ohio Department of Education.
- That funds a program called EngageOhio with the company Graduation Alliance, which reaches out to families — 16,000 so far — to connect them with resources.
- It's currently at capacity with over 210 school systems opting in, chief development officer Greg Harp tells Axios.
What we're watching: With COVID vaccines now available for all school-aged children and quarantine guidelines loosened, a boost in attendance is likely this school year.
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