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Superior Schools See Increased Truancy Problem

Superior High School sign - Superior School District in Superior, WI
Nick Cooper – TSM Duluth

Is it the students or is it the school?  The Superior Public School district has historically had a truancy problem.  At the same time, there are no systems in place to remedy it.  As we collectively enter the eighth month of a response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, those truant numbers have increased and it has school officials worried about what’s to come as the year progresses.

According to news sources, District Administrator Amy Starzecki reports that the current mixed-models of schooling has mediocre success.  She shares:

“Many students are finding success in the virtual model.  However we have many students not engaging or not attending.  I’m growing increasingly concerned about our truancy and our attendance rates in this model.  It’s a challenge. The virtual model is a challenge for students and families.  The structure’s harder, the routines are harder, and we’re seeing higher rates of truancy and higher rates of absenteeism.”

While many students and families have chosen the virtual method this year out of concerns for COVID-19, that model comes with additional responsibilities; those responsibilities fall to the parent and the individual student to rectify.  Starzecki says:

“If they’re going to be virtual learners, then they have to be at the computer – they have to be engaged and learning; and if they’re going to be hybrid learners they have to come to school.”

What makes the situation even more dire is the hands-off approach the district has historically had with managing truancy. Reports share that “students are considered truant is they’ve missed 10% or more days of school”.  The problem is that instead of holding the students accountable for their actions (their missed school time), the district has long penalized the parents – with court dates and fines – leaving the student unaccountable.

Another element that has the district concerned is the potential for increased sick days as we move into the winter season.  The next few months bring the regular cold and flu season.  This year, COVID-19 could be added into that mix.  Increased illness brings more missed school days – which add up quickly.

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