[image-1] Of the 1,121 students initially unaccounted for since schools shuttered for in-person learning in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester 2 school districts, 1,028 have made contact with their school staff in recent weeks.
Dorchester School District 2 public information officer Pat Raynor called her district’s progress “remarkable” in dropping from 143 unaccounted-for students as of June 29 to 16 students as of July 24.
Charleston County School District now has 40 reportedly missing students, down from 356 on June 29.
“From our end, it was an extraordinary effort and continues to be an extraordinary effort,” Charleston County School District spokesman Andy Pruitt said.
The S.C. Department of Education released an updated report July 24 showing 0.5 percent of statewide public school children, or 3,557, have not contacted school staff since March 15 when the state shuttered in-person instruction and they moved to distance learning. When the state first reported the number of unaccounted-for children on June 29, it was at 2 percent, or 16,085 students. That means 12,528 students were found over the past several weeks.
Raynor said the effort in Dorchester County to contact children who did not participate in online learning or turn in packets began soon after in-person class closures.
“That’s been a major priority through all of the process,” she said. “Some of the students, after repeated attempts had not been contacted, our school resource officers went out to the home … There’s been a lot of effort at every level.”
Raynor said some of the children did not have access to the internet or a device — something that will be solved with the district’s initiative this coming year to have a device for every student.
In the Charleston region, 93 students remain uncontacted. Berkeley County has not heard from 37 students. Berkeley schools did not respond Monday for a request to comment.
“There have been school districts out actively looking to make sure their numbers were right, make contact with these children,” said Lexington Republican Sen. Katrina Shealy, who has raised the alarm statewide over the issue. “I give them credit for that.”
Raynor said her district suspects some of the remaining 16 children have moved and the guardians have not yet requested student records, though she added that the district will continue to try to reach them.
Pruitt said his district has reached out to law enforcement for wellness checks on the remaining 40 students.
Shealy said the work also doesn’t end with tracking down all students.
“We’ve found them and laid eyes on them but are we going to sign them up and get them back in school,” she said. “We have to figure out how we’re going to educate them and it’s way more than the (initially reported) 16,000 that haven’t had an education.”
Pruitt said there’s “no doubt about it” that the district is concerned about ensuring the students make up for lost educational time.
“(But) the first priority is making sure these kids are OK,” he said. “That’s where the energy is spent.”
Note: A previous version of this story stated that Charleston County School District did not respond to requests for comment due to the reporter’s communication mix-up. It has been updated with comments from the district.