SC schools report more than 16,000 students have been unaccounted for since statewide school closures

SC schools report more than 16,000 students have been unaccounted for since statewide school closures
SC schools report more than 16,000 students have been unaccounted for since statewide school closures (Source: Jason Raven)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - According to a survey conducted by the South Carolina Department of Education, schools have not been able to make contact with 16,085 students across the state since they were closed because of the pandemic in March.

The survey released Tuesday afternoon includes responses from every school district in South Carolina. Senator Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) said she is concerned about the safety of some of these students.

"These aren't numbers these are real children. We need to find out what's going on," she said. Sen. Shealy said she believes most of the children are fine, their contact information may not be up to date or they moved in with family somewhere else. But she is worried about some kids who might be in really bad situations.

Back in May, state superintendent Molly Spearman estimated about 30,000 to 40,000 students were unaccounted for at that time.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said they are working on finalizing a plan on getting in contact with the final 16,000 students.

School districts we spoke with across the state said they have used creative ways to check in on students. Dr. Jaime Hembree is the Superintendent for McCormick County School District. She said since mid-March the small school district had a handful of students they couldn't get in touch with.

“We have heard of cases of students gone to live with dad or mom in another state for financial reasons,” she said.

According to the survey released Thursday, McCormick County reported one student was unaccounted for.

Dr. Hembree said they plan on welcoming their students back in late July. McCormick County is one of two counties seeing low-spread of COVID-19. According to Dr. Hembree they will have students alternate the days they come to class. "The hardest thing has been not actually lay eyes on the students and now for certain they are okay."

Some school districts are scheduled to begin summer academic recovery camps for students at-risk of falling behind as soon as next week. The state is allocating some of the CARES Act money to cover that.

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Sen. Shealy said, "You can't give reading programs to children when you don't know where they are."

According to the Department of Education, they are also sending checklists out to all principals to use as guidance when doing check-ins.

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