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More truancy cases filed against remote learners over hybrid learners in Franklin County

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School leaders say they’re struggling to keep kids in class during the coronavirus pandemic as thousands of students continue their educations from home.

According to data obtained by ABC 6 On Your Side from Franklin County Juvenile Court, Columbus City Schools filed at least 12 cases of truancy against its students from September first through the first full week of December.

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Nine of those cases came from Walnut Ridge High School. Reynoldsburg City Schools filed nine cases in which seven are against elementary and middle school students.

Both districts are currently in full remote learning as opposed to Focus Learning Academy which filed ten cases. The three sites for the Columbus charter school focusing on drop-out prevention and recovery stands in hybrid learning but has had to shift briefly to remote over the last three months.

“When you’re remote or when you’re doing a drive-by home visit, they’re not going to tell you that they slept in the park last night,” Focus Learning Academy Executive Director Kathy Williams told ABC 6 On Your Side. “The hardest thing for us right now is that we can’t see the bruises. We’re their source of support and guidance.”

Focus Learning Academy started the semester with a 55% attendance rate which Williams calls rare. She said her attendance teams made endless calls to students and even tracked them down on social media to make contact. Williams said she helps her 531 students with their non-academic barriers like homelessness, pregnancy, hunger, and rent. When students have not been in attendance for 105 consecutive hours, the truancy process begins.

Due to truancy patterns shifting due to remote learning and COVID-19, Williams said truancy priorities for her high school kids have also changed.

MORE: Central Ohio mom refuses to send kids to in-person classes, could face truancy charges

“Unfortunately, we’ve had some word from the courts that they’re dealing with so many junior high kids that sometimes they don’t even have time to get to the high school kids,” said Williams. “That says a lot.”

Williams's attendance efforts this semester has still proven to be somewhat successful. Last week, her data showed attendance rates have increased to over 75% at all three of her schools.

Other school districts filing truancy cases this semester include South-Western City Schools in full remote learning with one case, Dublin City Schools in full remote learning for its middle and high school students with seven cases, Westerville City Schools which just transitioned out of full remote learning with one case and New Albany Plain Schools which sits in a hybrid learning model with one case.

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20 other truancy cases did not list an affiliated school or district.

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