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Attendance, failing grades, and enrollment down for Mid-Michigan schools

Published: Dec. 9, 2020 at 5:50 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Fewer students, less engagement, and worsening grades. These are the three main problems school districts in Mid-Michigan are running into with remote learning.

East Lansing is just one of the districts finishing up its December report; showing how often students get online for a class and how well they do in each subject.

“We’ll reach out to some of these hard-reach families and out of nowhere you’ll get a parent contact or a student will email a teacher and you mark it down and you’re excited because they’re engaging and then they disappear for another three weeks or four weeks,” said Michigan Center Schools Superintendent Brady Cook.

Many districts are running into this problem. Michigan Center and Northwest are not hearing from about 100 of their students combined.

“Their Internet is spotty. For the younger kids, their parents might not be home at a time to help them. So, it has to be later in the afternoon. When you’re learning from home and virtually, there is just not that same sense of urgency when you are physically there, ” said Geoff Bontrager, Northwest Community Schools Superintendent.

It’s not just disappearing students, Enrollment is down in some districts.

East Lansing has lost 45 students -mostly in elementary schools.

East Lansing Superintendent Dori Leyko said enrollment is up at the high school; slightly at the middle school, and down at the elementary school.

“I know we’re down students. Normally, we would have those who are coming as international students to further their education at Michigan State. I know we have had families leave the district to access in-person education at the elementary level-either at a local private school or charter school,” said Leyko.

And on top of all this, more remote-learning students are failing classes.

“Forcing that traditional-grade model in this environment. Of course, it’s going to lead to higher failure rates because there are more people that can’t access things the way others can,” said Cook.

So districts are re-thinking the traditional school model.

“We are looking at not doing final exams for many reasons. Both the stress and it may be putting on students. It’s really challenging to administer those exams when kids are at home,” said Cook. “So, we’re looking at offering kids alternate ways to share their learning and to share the growth they’ve made in alternate experiences, alternate activities.”

School districts said parents could be open to changing the virtual learning model but they would need to get approval from the state. The Lansing School Board will be talking about how to deal with huge absentee rates at Thursday night’s meeting.

On Tuesday night, News 10 reported the “chronic” absenteeism rate is 28 percent in Lansing Elementary Schools and 41 percent in the high schools.

We’ll be covering that meeting Thursday on News 10.

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