Communities across the country are concerned about the growing number of K-12 students who are now "unaccounted for" amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The students are "unaccounted" for in the sense that they are no longer attending online or in-person classes and have essentially fallen off the grid.
A recent study by Bellwether Education Partners estimates that approximately three million of the “most educationally marginalized students” may have been unaccounted for since the beginning of the pandemic in March. Bellwether Education Partners, a non-profit organization that focuses on underserved communities, arrived at their estimation by calculating the “likely percentage of at-risk groups not in school, based on media reports and available data.”
In Michigan, K-12 enrollment has decreased by some 53,000 students, according to ABC News. State Superintendent Michael Rice said around 40,000 of these students are partially accounted for in that their families are choosing to home-school or hold back their children. But some 13,000 students are completely unaccounted for.
“The granular work to find children must take place at the local level,” Rice wrote. “Every child is important. To lose even one is too many.”
Robyn Harris, a representative from the Dallas Independent School District, told ABC news that some 12,000 students are unaccounted for in their district.
In Florida, nearly 90,000 students are “missing” as they failed to show up to school in the fall. Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls stated that the number of students unaccounted for represents around 3% of all K-12 students in Florida. In a letter posted on Twitter he stated, “(We have) to locate these missing children...We have a moral obligation not to allow any of these children to slip through the cracks of the system.”
With over 3% of our K-12 student population missing from public schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, I am calling on Districts to locate these children and re-enroll them. We must work together to ensure every student has access to the high-quality education they deserve. pic.twitter.com/Ls823ce9kl— Chris Sprowls (@ChrisSprowls) February 11, 2021
Communities are attempting to combat the growing problem by contacting some of their students daily through phone calls to ensure they attend class. In Dallas, teachers and volunteers were even going door-to-door to bring back unaccounted for students prior to the snow storm.
Experts say the long-term consequences for "missing" students are potentially catastrophic.