Hundreds of Students Have Not Attended Remote Classes in Lawrence

A school committee member in Lawrence, Massachusetts, has raised concerns with the district over poor attendance records

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Less than three weeks after the school year started virtually in Lawrence, Massachusetts, hundreds of students still haven't logged on for a single class, the district said Monday after a school committee member raised concerns over poor attendance records.

Jonathan Guzmán, a school committee member who represents District F, said it's possible that more than 1,000 students haven't attended classes yet.

"Every kid that we leave behind — we will affect their education and their future," he said. "Over 1,000 kids might not have a computer, might not have internet."

But the district disputed that number, saying only 255 students haven't shown up yet, a figure that represents just under 2% of the school system's student population.

The district has reached out to the families of those students and is working with them on a solution. It said the reasons for the absences varies from student to student.

The district decided to start the school year on Sept. 16 with all remote learning because the state has labeled the city a coronavirus hot spot.

"Obviously, our goal is to have every [student] in school every day, but [we] recognize there are any number of challenges," Chris Markuns, the district's spokesman, said in a statement. "There will also no doubt be isolated issues or technology failures."

Online education barriers are prevalent in urban districts, experts said.

"We must ensure that we are giving more than just — we're giving the basics, the vital basics of a computer, connectivity and digital literacy supports," said Lorena Lopera, executive director of Latinos for Education, a Belmont-based non-profit. "We know that in several districts, in many districts, in our urban districts, we have always had a gap — an opportunity gap."

The district said it supplies either a laptop or tablet computer for each of its 13,457 students. It also said it helps connect families with internet service, if necessary.

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