DETROIT (WXYZ) — Families in Detroit have two weeks down and at least one more to go of virtual school.
“It’s like the weight of the world is on my shoulder,” Susan Panther said.
Panther is a single mother of two children enrolled in Detroit Public Schools Community District. She says getting her seventh and second grader to stay logged on to virtual school is nearly impossible.
“I'm at work right now and the teacher already called me this morning and said my son logged in and logged back out,” she said.
Panther says she had this problem last year too, so much so they threatened her with jail time for truancy. Panther says it's a choice between going to work to provide for her family or staying home to make sure her children stay engaged with virtual school.
Chronic absences are an issue in the city of Detroit, according to research from Wayne State University. Sarah Lenhoff, an associate professor, says the city ranked number one in the country for kids ditching school before the pandemic.
The WSU professor says 70% of students missed at least 10% of enrolled school days.
"And a full quarter of students in the district last year missed half of their enrolled school days,” Lenhoff said.
The pattern seems to be repeating itself. Last week, DPSCD Superintendent Nikolai Vitti, Ph.D., says one day, attendance dipped down to 58%.
“I know in this pandemic we have lost our momentum,” Vitti said.
This week, about 76% of kids are logging on, but Lenhoff says with the threat of virtual school remaining, it's time to make some changes.
“Whether that’s putting students in smaller groups and having shorter sessions with fewer students so they can get more attention, moving the schedule up so maybe high school students are starting later in the day, which we know is already better for them.”
Vitti says DPSCD looked into some of those suggestions last year but is hopeful they wont have to go down that route again because he says schools in Detroit should be able to return to face-to-face learning no later than Jan. 31. But he is hopeful it could happen as soon as Jan. 24.