RIVERSIDE, Ohio (WDTN) — As students return to the classroom, districts across Ohio are already concerned about a surge of chronic absenteeism.

Last year, more than a third of students were considered chronically absent at Mad River Local Schools — and what that district is seeing has been reflected across the state.

Since the pandemic, school attendance data from the Ohio Department of Education shows a jump in chronic absenteeism, meaning students miss 10% of school hours due to absences of any kind.

During the 2021-2022 school year, approximately 30% of Ohio students were chronically absent. Compared to before the pandemic during the 2018-2019 school year, around 17% of students were chronically absent, according to data from the Ohio Department of Education.

Mad River’s superintendent said he’s noticed a lot more families keeping their children home if they are not feeling well, like how we were advised during the pandemic. But, he said too many kids are staying home too often, impacting their academic performance.

“It’s slowly starting to trend down. But we are going to have to continue to work with our families and our students to, you know, make a good decision of when you stay home, when you’re truly sick or when you need to come to school and, you know, participate actively in a school day,” said Chad Wyen, superintendent of Mad River Local Schools.

According to Scott DiMauro, head of Ohio’s Teachers Union, many students became disengaged with school after they were sent home in 2020. He said this brought along an increase in mental health issues like anxiety and depression for children.

DiMauro suggested that districts do the following to make sure students have a welcoming environment:

  • Having mental health support for students
  • Having smaller class sizes
  • Bettering communication between schools and families
  • Having a network of community resources to refer students to

“Chronic absenteeism is a serious issue that if we want students to be successful, then we have to work in partnership with parents and families to give students the support they need to be in school with those caring educators who really care about their success,” said DiMauro.

For more information on chronic absenteeism from the Ohio Department of Education, click here.