United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley and Partners Host a Webinar to Discuss the Issue of Chronic Absenteeism in Schools 

On February 28, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley hosted a webinar to help define the impacts of chronic absenteeism. Attendees gained a perspective on how serious this issue has become on a national level, with numbers skyrocketing from the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 70 guests and education specialists tuned in to be a part of the discussion, with opportunities to ask questions and gain a better understanding of how to help lower the percentage of students who fall under this category. We called upon some educators and learning specialists to help guide our efforts to improve the lives of our students and to spread awareness on this matter.  

When a student misses 10% or more of school sessions, they are considered chronically absent. Students who miss these opportunities to learn will have a harder time advancing through school systems due to the incomplete foundation absence built in their early years. We believe that an educated population is the cornerstone of our democracy and education is one of the most powerful paths out of poverty.  

During the seminar, attendees learned that the percentage of students who are chronically absent nearly doubled nationwide between 2017-2018 and 2021-2022, growing from about 8.1 million to about 14.7 million. Cecelia Leong, Vice President of Programs and Attendance Works, helped illustrate the data that reflects this concern as well as the different reconstructive practices that can be utilized to get students back in the classroom. Cecelia discussed the team approach which results in positive conditions for learning that lead to students being engaged and attending regularly.  

Our four panelists, Jack Silva from Bethlehem Area School District, Principal Rebecca Bodnar from Central Elementary School of Allentown School District, Danielle Day from Interventions Specialist at Ramos Elementary School in Allentown School District, and Principal John Cupples from Principal of Paxsonosa Elementary School in Easton Area School District were given the chance to speak on behalf of their school districts regarding this issue. These specialists found that absences can be an indicator of a larger problem impacting a student or family and what precautions they take to eliminate these issues. In addition, the panelists spoke about their efforts to look at students on an individual level to help offer the kids activities that they can get excited about. Something as simple as saying good morning to every student or creating new clubs pertaining to their interests will help the students feel engaged and eager to attend school.  

United Way is committed to helping our school districts by making strides to improve the percentages of chronic absenteeism by rebuilding the foundation for their learning to improve their graduation rates and create a better future for our generations to come. We extend our gratitude to Crayola for enabling this endeavor and for their support throughout our efforts to make a difference in our students’ lives.