Lewiston is battling with a high number of truant students due to the stresses caused by the pandemic and remote learning.
Students are considered truant if they miss more than three consecutive days of school without an excuse, the Lewiston Sun Journal reported.
By that definition, more than 1,000 of 5,200 Lewiston students are considered truant, Superintendent Jake Langlais told the school committee Monday night. Although he believes the actual number is lower due to attendance taking procedures, he still considers the absentee numbers to be too high.
In a memo, Langlais listed 35 reasons for students absences, among them being the pandemic, fear of sickness and issues caused by remote learning, according to the Sun Journal.
However, the district is working to reduce absences by communicating more with students and parents via email, phone, Zoom, Facebook and the district website, the Sun Journal reported. School staff are also working to make more home visits and day programming, and a hotline has been created.
Committee member Elgin Physic said she was concerned that student disengagement could affect classes in the 2021-22 school year because students would need to make up for lost time before moving grades, the Sun Journal reported. Options that were discussed was starting an intensive summer school program and beginning the 2021-22 school year earlier.
It comes as Maine schools are seeing enrollment plummet as more families are turning to homeschool and private school options due to the pandemic.
Maine’s school enrollment dropped 7,865 students this year, which is more than five times the size of the next largest recent enrollment drop, when Maine schools lost 1,554 students between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years.
Public schools are seeing the largest drop. Lewiston ’s p ublic s chools saw a 4.9 percent drop in enrollment between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. Meanwhile, Acadia Academy, a Lewiston charter school, saw a 12.2 percent increase.