Some South Carolina public school students apparently have dropped off the grid in March when lessons switched to virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They have not had any contact with their schools as many students return to class this fall with some form of in-person learning.
“So we know just how important a role having children in the classroom under the eye of education professionals,” Connelly Ragley from South Carolina Department of Social Services said.
DSS has been tasked with finding those missing kids to determine why they didn't participate in remote learning at the end of the last school year and what can be done to get them this year.
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“Schools and school districts were instructed by the Department of Education to submit lists with specific student contact information,” Ragley said.
Educators estimated they had lost track of 3,234 students and of those, 152 were subject to existing abuse or neglect investigations.
As of Tuesday, 519 of the total number of students have been contacted.
Investigators were given numerous reasons for the lack of participation from some families, which include:
- No available computer
- Did not have knowledge of how to complete the study material
- No transportation to pick-up or drop-off work packets.
- Language barriers
A Senate committee is expected to get an update Wednesday on how many kids have been found.
Leaders will also discuss measures that can help ensure it won’t happen again this year.
“Attendance will be taken,” Ragley said. “Participation is expected of children and families.”
In North Carolina, there does not appear to be a statewide effort to track down students, who lost contact with schools.
State officials said that responsibility belongs to each district.
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Mecklenburg County DSS said they jumped on the situation early and started looking for about 3,000 students between April and July.
“Clearly we were coming from a perspective of, ‘We’re here to help,’” Jacqueline McKnight, deputy director for Mecklenburg County DSS said. “We’re here to talk through, ‘If there were any concerns, we want to reconnect you back to the school.’”
She said 90 students have yet to be contacted.
McKnight also said several agencies have teamed up to help families, and there is information about the Meck Better Together website.
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