School Attendance Takes a Hit With Increased COVID Cases

Attendance in Chelsea public schools hit a low in January, but school officials are hoping those numbers will rise as the peak of Covid infections from the Omicron variant looks to be on the downward slope.

In January, attendance figures fluctuated from 80 to 85 percent in the elementary schools and lower at the high school.

Assistant Superintendent of schools Adam Deleidi said the absences by students and staff does correlate with the uptick in positive Covid cases since December.

“We did have far more cases at the high school level than at any other level, and that goes right along with attendance,” said Deleidi. “We are seeing up until around grade 8, the attendance is 80 to 85 percent. Once you hit the high school, they start to dip under 80 percent.”

Over the past several weeks, the number of positive Covid cases has been decreasing, and Deleidi said he hopes attendance figures follow suit.

School Committee member Roberto Jimenez Rivera asked if there was any way the attendance numbers could be adjusted to account for Covid cases.

“How are we doing with folks who are able to come if they are healthy?” he asked.

Deleidi said the schools do track who is absent due to Covid, but that those numbers have not been pulled out to see what the attendance rate would be without the Covid cases.

“As we are looking for our 95 percent (attendance) rate, we are clearly not going to be getting that because people are absent, but they are absent for a good reason,” said Jimenez Rivera.

While in past years, students and staff may have gone to school if they had the sniffles or were borderline sick, this year, Deleidi said everyone is being encouraged to stay home if they exhibit any symptoms of being ill.

“It is a tricky year to look at attendance as a measure, but we are tracking it,” said Deleidi.

The good news, Deleidi said, is that over the past two weeks, the positive Covid numbers are starting to drop for students and staff.

“The staff had the more drastic jump, and they dropped faster than the students,” said Deleidi. “We believe we will see a bigger drop with students moving forward.”

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