Student absences spiked across Central Florida last year, and experts say it’s not just COVID that’s to blame.
COVID absences continued long after Omicron’s push last winter, says UCF professor Larry Walker. In Orange County schools, 34 percent of the district missed the equivalent of two weeks in the 2021-22 school year.
Walker says minority students in underserved schools were particularly susceptible to chronic absenteeism due to various factors such as the affordable housing crisis and food insecurity.
“COVID exacerbates all the problems we already had in our society, especially for marginalized populations, especially black, Latino and Latino students. So what you see are the challenges of COVID-19 that are happening now and will be happening years and decades from now. »
Walker says he would like to see more therapists and counselors hired in schools to help students deal with the trauma they have faced over the past three school years.
“Making sure there are social workers, more school psychologists and other mental health practitioners in schools is extremely important to ensure students get the support they need. But the one thing I don’t want to do is I don’t mean specifically that this is all about schools, because it’s not.
Walker says policymakers must also be prepared to use the federal funds they receive to help address some of the root causes of absenteeism.
He says the long-term impact of students skipping class will be felt on the U.S. economy for decades to come, as workers are less prepared for high-demand STEM jobs.