By AYAH GALAL
HARTFORD, Connecticut (WFSB) — Hartford Public Schools are fighting a surge in chronic absenteeism that has been made much worse by the pandemic.
The district has been working on many initiatives to try to help kids stay in the classroom.
Right now, about 45% of students within the district are chronically absent.
The omicron variant is a big reason why that number went up.
School leaders are taking a multi-pronged approach in hopes of bringing those numbers down.
It’s Attendance Olympics month at Hartford Public Schools.
Each week the Maria Sanchez School post the average daily attendance by grade and medals are awarded to students.
“The grade that has the highest daily attendance wins an extra unified arts so they can get an extra gym class, music, or art class,” said Evelyn Mendoza-Overton, the principal.
It’s one of the many initiatives the district is taking to in hopes of encouraging more students to get excited about being in school.
“We’re really fostering that sense of community and collaboration. We’re a huge district. We have 39-plus schools,” said Corinne Barney, District Attendance Strategy Lead.
About 45 percent of students within the Hartford Public Schools district are considered chronically absent.
Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10 percent or more of school days.
That number was around 20 percent before the pandemic.
“We look at those root causes and try to identify how quickly can we shift, how quickly can we identify additional supports and additional partnerships,” said Dr. Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools.
The superintendent says the omicron variant led to many students having to quarantine and more students missing school.
During the 2021-2022 school year, the average Hartford student has missed 14 days of school.
School leaders say getting those absentee numbers down requires a community-wide approach centered on awareness.
“We are big on building relationships with students and with families. Because we feel we are the hub of the community.”
Roughly 7,600 students identified as chronically absent have missed an average of 24 days.
Next month will be March Madness Attendance month.
The goal is to have the absentee rate go down from 45 percent to 33 or 35 percent by the end of the school year.
Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.