Mat-Su Borough School District sees daily 20% absentee rate

The issue with attendance is no longer solely a COVID-19 problem, the district says
Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 5:45 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District says they have been experiencing chronic absenteeism since the start of the academic school year.

According to a letter from the school district superintendent to parents, the district said that approximately 20% of their student body is absent every day. Superintendent Randy Trani said that initially, the problem was linked to COVID-19 infections, quarantines and cancelation of school bus routes. However, in the past two weeks, the district has seen a lower rate of COVID-19 infections, but the rate of absent students remains steady.

Trani says COVID-19 is not solely to blame now for this problem. Instead, he says students are getting used to the idea that they can miss school and nothing will change.

“School has been, it used to be very stable and it happened every single day no matter what, and then for the last two years, we and by we I mean the district, and for good reason, we have taught them, in quotes, we’ve taught them that school isn’t something that you go to all the time,” Trani said.

He said the district’s absentee problem has been primarily for middle and high school students. He says that it’s because this age group of students tend to either transport themselves to school, or stay at home alone. However, Sarah Paison, a parent in the school district, has had a different experience.

Paison is a mother of both a 6-year-old and two high school students. She said her high school students have not had an issue missing school. However, her 6-year-old son, Shane, has missed school 25 times since the start of the school year due to COVID-19 precautions. Paison says this disruption to his school schedule has made it difficult for him to have a productive learning experience.

“He thinks school is an option now,” Paison said. “It will be like a Monday and it’s like, ‘Okay it’s time for school’, and he doesn’t think that he needs to go because they’re teaching him that you know, he doesn’t need to go. And I’m really more worried about the impact of that than of any of the kids getting COVID.”

Paison said she and her husband have been creating their own curriculum at home to keep Shane up-to-date on his lessons. She said the school does allow them to pick up worksheet activities for the children to do, but that there is a lack of guidance.

Meanwhile, Trani said the school district has implemented a credit, community, college and career program dubbed the “4 C’s,” which assigns every student a teacher that they meet with on a daily basis to help students stay academically up-to-date and be prepared for graduation.

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