Over the past nine months, COVID-19 has devastated the U.S. economy and led to the death of over 300,000 Americans. Another emerging consequence that experts fear could have serious long-term ramifications is the growing number of children disappearing from school following last spring’s COVID-19 closures.
A survey conducted by CBS’s “60 Minutes” found that among 78 of the largest school districts in the country, at least 240,000 students remained unaccounted for when school resumed remotely this fall. Since then, the levels of chronic-absenteeism among students have continued to rise, putting millions of kids at risk of falling behind.
In an interview with Fox News, Robert Balfanz, a research professor at Johns Hopkins School of Education and director of the Everyone Graduates Center, attributed this drop-off of students with a number of factors linked to the shift from in-person to remote learning.
“Maybe once school is open kids will reappear because then school is real, there’s a place to go to. We can hope. But in general, when kids drop out it’s a hard slog to come back,” said Balfanz.
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He said “part of the tragedy” is that some kids are not participating because of Internet or technical issues, or they have parents who need to leave home for work so the oldest child takes on the responsibility of caring for siblings.
“Another reason is that they’re actually out working in the delivery services because family income has been impacted by COVID,” he added.
The circumstances are especially unfortunate, Balfanz said, because the country has seen steadily increasing graduation rates over the past 15 years driven primarily by low-income and minority students, who are the ones most likely to be impacted by COVID-19.
Another group bearing the brunt of coronavirus-related closures are kids experiencing homelessness.
“The losses for children and youth who are homeless are very, very significant right now,” said Barbara Duffield, executive director of SchoolHouse Connection, a non-profit focused on overcoming homelessness through education.
“Education is the only way out of poverty,” she said, claiming that the lack of a high school degree or GED is the single greatest risk factor associated with young adult homelessness.
“With the closure of school buildings, children and youth who were homeless lost all of that stability and safety,” Duffield continued.
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In January, the U.S. Department of Education reported 1.5 million schoolchildren as homeless. A survey done by the SchoolHouse Connection found that by this fall — amid the pandemic’s school closures, shrinking capacity at homeless shelters, and higher family mobility – more than 423,000 have fallen off school’s radars.
“We don’t think that we’ve magically solved homelessness during an economic crisis and during the pandemic,” Duffield said regarding the 28% decline in homeless students. “The responses from school districts are that that drop in numbers is because of the challenges identifying them.”
In fact, it is more than likely that the number of homeless school-age kids has increased over the past year.
While there is no data yet to show how this phenomenon of students disengaging from school will impact graduation rates, both Duffield and Balfanz fear the long-term results will be fewer kids with high school degrees.
“It’s really grim,” said Balfanz. “There is really no work to support a family if you don’t have a high school diploma.”
Despite the successful reopening of many schools across the U.S., in some of the largest school districts, including ones in New York and California, kids remain at home.
“There should be efforts now to get them back as soon as possible, even if it’s just for a month,” urged Balfanz. “To have that place for kids to go back to, to just reconnect with school, is so important.”
Source by www.foxnews.com