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Bringing Students Back to School Safely – What Superintendents Need to Know

Returning to school at the beginning of this calendar year proved difficult. The lightning-fast spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus left students, parents, teachers, and school administrators scrambling for a fast solution. As omicron appears to be receding across the country, school superintendents need to tackle the challenge of absenteeism.

As parents and educators acknowledge that virtual learning remains challenging, some students are at a higher risk than others. School administrators and managers must look out for those most at risk.

A Challenging Start

When schools returned to in-person teaching in the fall of 2021, families and educators watched the situation with bated breath. Some feared rising COVID-19 infections, and others believed that continued attempts at home-schooling or distance learning would prove more detrimental to students.

While the start of the school year passed relatively smoothly, more significant challenges presented themselves at the beginning of this calendar year. Over the winter break, the omicron variant started to cause an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 infections across the entire United States.

Rather than returning to their regular lessons and schedules, schools canceled classes, and some asked their students to stay home. As the number of infections peaked by the middle of January, both students and teachers were missing from school.

One month on, the number of infections continues to rise, albeit at a much slower rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of new cases increases by more than 500,000 every day (CDC). While that number may seem high, it represents a drop of nearly 20% compared to the average number of infections even one week ago. The numbers suggest that the omicron wave has peaked and may now be declining.

Being Present Matters

School closures at the beginning of this year were mostly limited to the midwest and northeast of the country. However, educators nationwide feared that they might need to return to different forms of homeschooling.

Even two years after the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, American educators are considering remote instruction an “educational disaster,” acknowledging that the practice cannot replace in-person teaching.

In places like New York City, attendance dropped unusually low due to a combination of illness and absenteeism. On some days, one-third of students did not attend school. After a year of rising absenteeism, teachers fear long-term challenges of helping those absent catch up while allowing other students to move forward.

Remote instruction and online learning may work for some adults, but the concept remains challenging for children and their families. Lacking access to laptops is one concern. Other families saw parents struggling to organize childcare.

Families, educators, and administrators have had to balance the risk to students’ and teachers’ health with the risk of missing out on education and school lunches, and social activities.

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Managing Absenteeism and Mitigating Risk

Long before the coronavirus pandemic, increasing absenteeism has been a challenge for school superintendents across the country.

Playing truant is anything but a laughing matter. Missing too much school has been linked to reduced opportunities in adulthood. Those who regularly miss school are at higher risk of behavioral and mental health problems like self-harming and suicidal ideation. They are also more likely to become involved in illegal activities in later life. In essence, school attendance has become a predictor of a child’s future.

School superintendents are being called on to prevent rising chronic absenteeism, independently of its cause. Apart from ensuring those who missed school because of the pandemic have a chance to catch up, they need to understand how many of their school’s students are at risk for other reasons.

Technology Helps School Administrators

Gone are the days when all educators could do was mark a student’s absence in a book and talk to their parents. Today’s school superintendents can access sophisticated technology to help them track attendance and recognize vulnerable students.

The goal of IT solutions like the attendance and an at-risk platform from TrueCare™ is to work with parents and make monitoring attendance easy while identifying those who require support early on.

This tool makes it easy for parents to notify the school when their child will be absent for any reason. All they need to do is send a text message to the school.

The software collates any text messages, and it also notes unexplained absences. School administrators receive a notification if students are starting to miss too many school days. It allows them to intervene as early as possible. Chronic absenteeism is often an indicator of more significant, underlying issues. Being able to address them early helps students, parents, and teachers get back on track.

While the rise in omicron infections has created a sharp increase in missed school days, chronic absenteeism became an issue for schools and families long before. Tackling the growing problems arising from this issue has never been more critical.

Using the attendance and at-risk platform is cost-effective and straightforward.

Find out how your school district can benefit

 

About TrueCare™ 

TrueCare™ is a nationwide Health & Wellness platform for families and businesses providing end-to-end solutions for COVID-19 testing, screening, vaccination, home care, and corporate well-being services.

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