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One organization searches for 'missing' COVID-19 students

Nearly 25% of students are unaccounted for in one local school district since switching to virtual learning
Credit: 13News Now

CHESAPEAKE, Va. — For many students across Hampton Roads learning virtually has been a struggle.

Miscommunication is inevitable and learning from home comes with a certain level of comfort that’s easily distracting.

However, we are learning that, for too many students, the change has been crippling.

Because of that, thousands of them have gone ‘missing.’

Increases in absenteeism have reached alarming levels in some Hampton Roads school districts.

Portsmouth Public Schools has the largest truancy group with nearly 1 in 4 students missing at least 90 percent of virtual classes and assignments. That is up from just over 16 percent in 2019, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

“They may not have a family support system,” said Clara Wilson, CEO and founder of New Vision Youth Services in Chesapeake. “We are that system.”

Wilson has made it her mission to find these missing students.

“I am very optimistic about the program, but I can say concerned at the same time,” said Wilson.

Wilson is concerned because of what’s on the line. They deal primarily with young adults aging out of the foster system.

Without in-person education, the consequences of truancy can be tragic.

“Any given day we can get a call about someone who has been sex trafficked or on the street,” said Wilson.

In many cases, the fix is as simple as finding the student and connecting them with a computer and the internet.

The organization’s UpLift project has Program Coordinator Kerri Henderson going door to door to track them down.

“Getting our organization out there,” said Henderson. “Letting them know we are in the community and we are here to help.”

The hope is that reconnecting even just one student to school, will help them weather the storm of learning, and life, during a pandemic.