WCSD discusses solutions for chronic absences and lower graduation rates

The Washoe County School District held a press conference Thursday to discuss cold weather plans
The Washoe County School District held a press conference Thursday to discuss cold weather plans(KOLO)
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 9:47 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Washoe County School District board members focused on chronic absenteeism, among other topics, at Tuesday night’s meeting at North Valleys High School. The high number of absences is happening in the Washoe County School District, and in schools nationwide, meaning that students have missed 10% or more of the academic year.

A s a whole, the district saw 37% chronic absenteeism in 2020, compared to only 13% in 2019. This trend is being seen across all grade levels. For example, district officials say more than half of high schoolers were chronically absent in 2020, which is triple the amount from 2019. Middle school student absences were up 31% in 2020 compared to 2019, and elementary kids went from 11% to 23% when it comes to missing school days. District data also shows student absences based on learning models varied among grade levels.

When looking at absences among different ethnic groups last year, American Indian students were absent 52% of the time, Asians 23%, Hispanic students - 46%, African American - 54%, and white students - 24%. All of those numbers are up from the year prior.

The Board of Trustees also discussed lower graduation rates due to the pandemic. Right now, they’re seeing a higher number of students who are off-track from graduating on time. Data shows the 2020 senior class graduation rate dropped 4.7% and the 2021 senior class rate fell 14.3%. This issue is something district leaders and educators are concerned about and working hard to improve. Superintendent, Dr. Kristen McNeill, says they need help from families as well to get students where they need to be.

“If you are concerned about your child’s progress, please reach out to your school and your principal. They know your child so very well. Our counselors and teachers are working hard, but they need to hear from you,” she added.

The district is taking steps to address these concerns, which include graduation tracking meetings, guidance counseling, family engagement, and support and planning for spring and summer credit recovery. Some full contact sports were also approved to come back, which district leaders say may help with student engagement.

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