COVID funds have helped the Hawai‘i DOE to offer solutions that have improved attendance rates, but those funds will soon run out. While chronic absenteeism improved across the state last year, some groups of students still lag behind in their attendance rates. Absenteeism among traditionally disadvantaged groups like homeless and low-income students as well as Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians was even higher than national averages of 30% during and 15% before the pandemic. Within Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian groups, 55% to 40% of students qualified as chronically absent in the 2022-23 school year. That too was an improvement compared with 66% to 50% of students in those groups in the previous year.
Students miss school for a variety of other reasons as well, from experiencing housing instability to feeling unsafe on campus, said deputy superintendent Heidi Armstrong. As a result, the state Department of Education used federal COVID-relief funds to support a range of initiatives addressing the problem. “Getting to know students and the causes of their absences help guide the schools in providing the appropriate wraparound support so we can address the issues that are prohibiting students from coming to school,” Armstrong said. Those included the addition of more counselors to help students transition back to campus and attendance arcades to reward students who arrived on time. But despite the imposing attendance rates, the question remains if the state can maintain the momentum as the COVID relief funds run out. — excerpts from Honolulu Civil Beat, later distributed by National Education education organization “The 74”.