Nearly a quarter of Portland students have been chronically absent from classes.
Portland High School is seen on Cumberland Avenue. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Nearly a quarter of Portland students are chronically absent.

That’s raising concerns that more Portland students could fall further behind after two full school years hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Portland School Department last week released its latest report on absenteeism, which found a marked spike over the past four school years. In the 2017-2018 school year, about 19 percent of students were chronically absent — defined as missing at least 10 percent of days during a school year, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Last year, that climbed to 24.4 percent, the Press Herald reported.

Students who are chronically absent are at risk of getting lower grades, failing more classes and becoming more disconnected from the school community, Robert Balfanz, the director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, told the Press Herald.

More than two years into the pandemic, educators across the state have raised alarms about more students falling behind in their academics, a consequence of the sudden switch to remote learning in 2020 and then frequent outbreaks that occurred schools resumed in-person learning despite rising infections.

Many districts like Lewiston have struggled with chronic absenteeism.

In response, the University of Maine System is working with first- and second-year students to help them catch up in areas like reading and math.