Roughly 40% of juniors and seniors in Boston Public Schools were chronically absent in the fall, a stark increase from pre-pandemic absentee rates, The Boston Globe reported.
At least 2,900 high school juniors and seniors were chronically absent — missing at least 10% of classes — from September through December, 500 more students than was typical before the pandemic.
The trend did not impact every student equally.
The rate of Black, Latino, disabled, and English-learner students who were chronically absent across all grades grew from 21% to 26%. Roughly one-third of all Black and Latino students were marked chronically absent.
The attendance rates of white and Asian-American students, however, did not change dramatically — 12% of white students and 9% of Asian-American students were chronically absent last fall.
Causes of this disparity could include economic challenges posed by the pandemic forcing students to work to support their families, mental health challenges or lack of access to reliable Internet or laptops.
Educators said they worry that the increase in absenteeism could spell an increase in drop-outs.
District officials are working to re-engage students who might have missed many days of school and integrate them back to the classroom. Superintendent Brenda Cassellius announced that the district will hire 175 family liasons and social workers next year.
Some educators interviewed by The Globe said they believe attendance will increase once schools open to in-person learning by late March. Students, however, could still opt to stay at home if they are concerned about the spread of the virus.