Empty classrooms both virtual and real. Photo by Marco Fileccia on Unsplash

By Khadija Hasan, age 12

Thousands of students have been missing from school in the United States, attending neither in-person nor online classes, according to ABC News. Students are facing countless issues with their virtual classrooms. Many have been completely absent, while others are falling months behind in their schoolwork. These issues have disproportionately affected students of low-income families and students of color.

In Florida, a report obtained by 10 Investigates found that student membership in public school classes has dropped by 87,000. Some of these students have started homeschooling or attending private schools, according to the Miami Herald, but many are still unaccounted for. In an interview with IndyKids, California-based high school English teacher Mr. Martinez said that for an average class, there are two or three students missing. “I can count on one hand how many classes I’ve had with 100% attendence,” Mr. Martinez said. 

Funding for public schools is based on how many students enroll in the school year, meaning many schools are facing a major setback in terms of funding. However, the Herald reports that Richard Corcoran, a Florida education commissioner, addressed the issue with an order which allows school districts to maintain the per-student funding from the previous school year, although this order may only be in effect for one year. 

In addition to the decreasing student enrollment, students who have been able to attend class are facing challenges in making up for failing grades. Lack of internet access and language barriers are causing issues with participating in class. Students with disabilities are facing an array of issues, including lack of one-on-one support from professionals and lack of accommodations. 

Students who are falling behind or missing school could face long-term consequences. “You are going to have a whole generation of kids who are not well enough prepared for college and careers. You are going to have significant increases in mental, social and emotional well-being issues with kids, ” Mike Magee, CEO of the educational nonprofit Chiefs for Change, told ABC News. 

Many teachers, volunteers and nonprofit leaders have been working to address these issues. For example, former Education Secretary John King Jr. thinks that a national tutoring program can help make up for lost time. In the meantime, teachers and volunteers have been reaching out to students through email, or by sending postcards, asking them how they’re doing and encouraging them to come back to school. “Every student out there is struggling in one way or another,” said Mr. Martinez. “We want every student to be happy, healthy and safe, because learning is hard when those things are missing.”