Officials: COVID-19 worsening Richmond schools absenteeism

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A top public school official in Virginia's capital city says the pandemic has “exacerbated” an existing problem with chronic absenteeism.

About 1 in 5 students in Richmond Public Schools are on track to be chronically absent, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported, citing data presented to the city school board on Monday.

“We are operating virtually in the middle of a health pandemic. COVID has exacerbated an existing problem, and made it much worse," Harry Hughes, the district's chief of schools, said.

As of Oct. 5, 20 days into the school year, 21.2% of students in the school system had missed 10% or more of the school year, the newspaper reported. That's up 3 percentage points from last year’s rate.

The RPS administration says the high absenteeism is related to increased crime, virtual instruction and the lack of supervision able to be provided at the elementary school level.

The system has historically struggled with chronic absenteeism, according to the newspaper, with rates in recent years twice the state average.