Superintendents from school districts impacted by the July flooding in eastern Kentucky said during a Dec. 6 virtual superintendents huddle they are continuing to struggle with low student attendance, first due to flooding and now due to illnesses.
Superintendent Jonathan Jett of Perry County Schools told Kentucky Department of Education leadership that “attendance is terrible right now – we’re dealing with a lot of sickness.” He said it is at about 78%.
With significant numbers of staff and students absent due to illness, Jett said turning to Non-Traditional Instruction (NTI) days might not be possible because there is no way to make sure all students can get their Chromebooks, normally left at the school.
“I thought about trying to do NTI days and virtual … but getting those devices out to kids that are sick and the teachers not being there to know which student gets which device – that’s a challenge,” he said.
“We’re about 84% or 85% attendance,” added Letcher County Superintendent Denise Yonts. “We’re having the same problems and seeing the same issues.”
Brent Hoover, superintendent of Knott County Schools, said his district’s attendance had been low throughout the year.
“The highest our attendance has been since we started school this year was 88%, and that was only for two days. We’ve been running 84% to 87% prior to sickness,” he said.
Hoover said his attendance reached as low as 71% last week.
Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass said he and KDE staff are dedicated to working with the legislature when it meets in January to see what kind of flexibility can be given to the districts that are struggling with high absentee rates as several viruses continue to spread across the state.
“We’ll do what we can to advocate for more flexibility,” he said. “We need a statutory change for adjusted average daily attendance (AADA); it’s written in the state law.”
In accordance with current state law, KDE provides a yearly funding stream to districts based on AADA as reported on the Superintendent’s Annual Attendance Report (SAAR). The SAAR provides a summary of each district’s aggregate attendance data for the entire school year.
KDE leadership will hold another huddle for superintendents from flood-impacted districts on Dec. 20.