Schools have solutions for online truancy

Daily Press file photo Traci Pinar, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade science classes at Escanaba Area High School, holds a laptop she uses to livestream classes.

ESCANABA — The shifting format of education during the pandemic has challenged both students and teachers. Schools are noticing that some students struggle to keep up when attending school online. A growing number of teachers are also encountering a form of virtual truancy they often refer to as “ghosting.”

Merriam-Webster states the informal definition of ghosting as, “the act or practice of abruptly cutting off all contact with someone (such as a former romantic partner) by no longer accepting or responding to phone calls, instant messages, etc.”

Teachers are using the term to refer to students who log in for streaming classes and then “disappear” without participating.

Many area schools are initially attempting to resolve truancy issues by reaching out directly to students, reserving negative consequences such as parent notification as a last resort.

“More than anything else, we want students eager to come to school because it’s a place they can enjoy and feel safe,” said Escanaba Superintendent Coby Fletcher.

Mid Peninsula High School is also reaching out to students before parents as an opportunity to teach accountability and maturity.

“We try to teach kids first by giving them responsibility over their own education,” Superintendent Eric VanDamme said, though the school does contact parents if the behavior isn’t remedied quickly.

VanDamme added having a small high school makes it easier to catch truancy and put a stop to it.

All the schools asked said that since the pandemic began, parents have been more supportive and communicative than ever.

“I think that this pandemic has opened the eyes of the general population, and teachers are starting to get the respect they’ve always deserved,” said Bark River Superintendent Jason Lockwood.

VanDamme said his teachers spent many hours of their own time last summer preparing for the possibility of online schooling last fall. He’s grateful parents have shown patience and acknowledgment of that effort.

“I’m appreciative of the parents that have been so understanding. We’re not an online school, and we’re trying. We’re not perfect. We don’t expect students to be perfect,” he said.

Though schools are generally crediting their students with doing a good job, there is concern all-around that students stay caught up. Fletcher said online learners struggle the most to stay current on assignments, and self-paced online classes pose the biggest challenge. Escanaba schools have several staff members dedicated to helping these students stay on track.

Bark River schools agreed staying current on assignments remains a concern. Lockwood emphasized that once students fall behind, it’s difficult for them to catch up.

“Most often, this is associated with students being quarantined or due to the change in instructional delivery. Our students need consistency and these significant changes in their learning have shown to have a negative impact on some of our learners,” said Lockwood.

To help students stay present, engaged and up-to-date, Escanaba is returning to in-person classes for all grades on January 25. Parents will have final say, however, in the attendance decision. In-person classes will continue to be streamed to allow access for students who want to continue attending online, either part- or full-time.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)

Starting at $4.75/week.

Subscribe Today