Bay District Schools superintendent says over 200 kids are “missing”

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 11:01 PM CST
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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - COVID-19 has impacted many things, children’s education is one of them.

The pandemic has amplified the rate of “missing” children at Bay District Schools.

“Every year we have a number of students we term missing. No one sent their records, they haven’t done an official withdrawal, we can’t find them, no phone numbers or the addresses are incorrect,” Superintendent Bill Husfelt said.

Husfelt said the district has more than 200 “missing” students. He said they range in age, but they’re mostly concerned about the younger kids.

“Many of them are in very dangerous situations in their home life. No one is taking care of them and watching out for them. Whether we like it or not, schools are the fortress that protects students,” Husfelt said.

Husfelt said a lot of students depend on school faculty for help and protection. This prompted the district to create the truancy team.

“Our goal as a truancy team is to get to the homes, find the students, get them back to school, or at least give them access to an education through some support from us,” Jennifer Jennings, instructional specialist for graduation options and dropout preventions, said.

Jennings said the teams work in tandem with local agencies and a truant officer to provide support to bring kids back to school. She said once these kids are located, they provide the kids and their parents with services needed to get their kids back on track. She adds they offer help with clothes, supplies, and access to any educational needs to get students back on track.

“We know how important an education is and so our concern is that the people watching these children don’t understand the importance of education for that child that they’re keeping out of school for whatever reason,” said Husfelt.

Husfelt and Jennings said parents should reach out to the district to communicate their plans, or if they need help. Husfelt said this doesn’t include home-schooled or virtual learning students, but families they haven’t heard back from for school choice.

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