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Muskogee Public Schools tackling chronic absenteeism

Muskogee superintendent
Posted at 3:58 PM, Oct 17, 2023

MUSKOGEE, Okla. — A new report shows an alarming trend, that 2/3 of schools across the country are dealing with chronic absenteeism. The Oklahoma State Department of Education defines chronic absenteeism as students missing 10% of the school year, about 18 days.

“What we have found is it’s getting more and more difficult to get everyone to come to school,” said Dr. Jarod Mendenhall.

Muskogee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Jarod Mendenhall says it’s an issue that’s been on the forefront of his mind this year.

“This is more of an issue than it was before the pandemic, no question,” said Dr. Mendenhall.

A new report by Attendance Works, a non profit focused on absenteeism,backs that up. They found in the 2021-2022 school year, 66% of students attended a school with high or extreme levels chronic absence. That means at least one in five students was missing almost four weeks of learning during the school year.

“You can’t learn if you’re not there, and so I think that’s the biggest ting we’ve been talking with our families talking with our students to make sure they understand,” said Dr. Mendenhall.

The report says a number of factors could be behind this trend including untreated health needs, trauma from losing loved ones, and anxiety. Dr. Mendenhall says the culture changed as well during COVID.

“We went through the pandemic,” said Dr. Mendenhall. “We came back to school, and I think so many more kids and even parents believe if you can get it at home why not stay home.”

He says Muskogee Public Schools is working to tackle the issue in a number of ways. They’re offering incentives for perfect attendance. Their reclamation program sends administrators to student’s home and so far this year they’ve re-claimed about 30 students who weren’t attending school. They’re also utilizing the court system to write tickets and hold families accountable for their students missing too much classroom time.

“This is so critical for everyone,” said Dr. Mendenhall. “I think raising children in today’s world we need to make sure they are accountable to something and that they are doing what they should be doing and that is going to school every day.”

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