LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- After the two school years disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and another about a month from beginning, Jefferson County Public Schools is continuing efforts to reach students who infrequently participated in classes.
JCPS has sent various communications to many families as the start of the 2021-22 academic year approaches. Matt Anderson, executive administrator of culture and climate, said the district has sent information on registration, enrollment, orientation and start dates through phone calls and text messages this summer to families, with an emphasis on students who were not as engaged in learning last school year.
"They're getting additional mailings and postcards just to remind them about those processes and the things that are coming up that they need to be made aware of, so that's kind of proactively how we're working to get everybody ready," Anderson said.
The district is hoping to reengage students whose participation in nontraditional and hybrid instruction lagged, he said.
Records obtained by WDRB News show that 1,119 students either did not attend in-person classes or participate in remote work from the time JCPS transitioned to a hybrid learning model in March through May 7.
Most of those students attended middle and high schools, which totaled 940 of those unaccounted for in that time frame. The Academy @ Shawnee had the most students who had not participated in classes in that time with 200 followed by Valley High School with 102, Iroquois High School with 64, Southern High School with 57 and Western High School with 55.
Most students who had not participated in classes during that time, 953, received free or reduced-price meal assistance and nearly half, 498, were Black, JCPS records show.
WDRB News previously reported that most high-poverty schools struggled with lagging participation rates in the opening months of the 2020-21 school year.
Anderson said the district would conduct home visits with families whose students have not regularly participated in classes once the 2021-22 school year begins.
Additional resources like Family Resource and Youth Services Centers, whose staffers "are a big part in returning kids to school and making sure they have what they need," will also be options for schools looking to reconnect with students, he said.
"We have our school attendance teams who will be collaborating regularly to identify needs and provide supports for kids, and then we also have some reengagement staff in our department that work to really just keep kids engaged by removing barriers, getting them any support that they might need so that when they come to school, they can really just focus on learning," Anderson said. "… Coming out of our office, that's a big thing that we're going to be providing in terms of support."
JCPS will move back to regular in-person instruction five days per week with a new virtual school offered for students in sixth through 12th grades in the 2021-22 academic year.
The district conducted about 1,200 home visits during nontraditional instruction and hybrid learning last year, Anderson said.
Once classrooms reopened, he said more than 200 students reconnected with their schools after that direct contact.
"We did basically a home-visit blitz once we returned to school," he said.
Summer learning programs offer more opportunities to keep students engaged in learning and school, Anderson said.
Some JCPS students faced steep barriers during the pandemic that kept them from regularly participating in coursework, Anderson said.
"Some come down to things as simple as transportation," he said. "Some come down to changes in cell phones. Some come down to the family just has other needs, people have to work. There's a variety of things that could lead to that."
"Life circumstances happened with some of our families, especially in the middle of a pandemic," Anderson said, adding that some students had to care for younger siblings during the pandemic.
Anderson hopes his department's work to reengage students will yield results not only in high attendance rates, but also in students who are "happy and ready to be back at school."
"From the culture and climate perspective, it's really getting kids back and seeing them back and looking at our enrollments and making sure everybody's back where they need to be," he said.
The first day of the 2021-22 school year for students is Aug. 11.
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