By MEGHAN GLOVA
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY
Twenty percent of Oregon students don’t attend school on a regular basis, according to the Oregon Department of Education.
“If kids aren’t showing up, we know there’s something going on,” said Terra Hernandez, the “Every Day Matters” team lead for the Education Department. “If they’re not there, there’s a reason why they’re not there.”
Nationally, Oregon consistently ranks within the bottom 20 percent of states for chronic absenteeism rates.
The question is why.
And it’s a question the Department of Education, local schools, and parents are trying to find out.
“Sometimes they’re sick, yes. Sometimes they’re doing things with their families, which is healthy. I mean it’s healthy to spend time with your families,” Hernandez said Friday prior to a meeting in Bend to discuss the issue. “It’s healthy if you have needs, to take that time. But if you’re consistently missing, teachers are noticing that.”
The Department of Education will gather input from all stakeholders during these sessions and use this information when writing rules for the department, districts, and schools to fully implement the current Oregon attendance laws.
Hernandez says students tend to miss school due to lack of transportation, stress, or caring for siblings. An those are some of the most common reasons that could make or break who graduates.
“Transportation and mental health seem to be two things bubbling up when we talk to kids and families,” she said. “And educators are trying to figure out how to get those needs met.”
Hernandez says absenteeism can be categorized by whether students can’t go, don’t go, or won’t go.
“We need to find out what are the resources that they need from the community,” she said. “Every location is different, and that’s why we’ve been traveling around the entire state trying to figure out this part of Oregon needs this, this part of Oregon needs these resources.”
To tackle the problem, they are looking for feedback, because each situation is as unique as each student who misses a day of school.