Stockton Unified Tackles Rising Absenteeism Amid Declining Enrollment

Yellow Line

In the wake of the pandemic, public schools across California, including the Stockton Unified School District, are facing a dual challenge: declining student enrollment and a significant increase in absenteeism. According to a report by Maricela De La Cruz of KCRA, these issues are prompting districts to adopt proactive measures to ensure students return to the classroom.

The Stockton Unified School District, once home to 38,013 students during the 2022-2023 school year, has seen its numbers drop to 34,544 in the 2023-2024 school year. This decline mirrors a statewide trend, with the Sacramento City Unified School District also reporting a decrease from 39,728 students in 2018-2019 to 37,407 in 2023-2024.

More alarming, perhaps, is the spike in absenteeism rates across various districts. In the Sacramento City Unified School District, absenteeism has nearly doubled, jumping from 16.8% in 2018-2019 to 28.7% in 2023-2024. Similarly, the Lodi and Stockton districts have witnessed absenteeism rates skyrocket to 30.66% and 29.63% respectively.

Melinda Meza, the director of communications at the Stockton Unified School District, highlighted the district's commitment to addressing these challenges. "Since COVID, we saw that not all of our students were coming back," Meza said. "But we just try to be really proactive to make sure that we were offering the resources needed so that they could come back to school."

To combat absenteeism, Stockton Unified has deployed a team of 10 truancy outreach specialists who make house calls to engage with students and their families directly. These specialists aim to identify and alleviate barriers preventing students from attending school, offering tailored resources to facilitate their return.

While many districts grapple with these issues, there are signs of optimism. The Roseville Joint Union High School District, for instance, has reported its highest enrollment numbers since 2019, with 10,777 students currently enrolled. The district anticipates further growth, driven by new housing developments.

As districts like Stockton Unified work diligently to reverse these trends, the focus remains on providing a supportive and accessible educational environment for all students. With targeted outreach efforts and the potential for new school construction in districts like Lodi, there is hope for a resurgence in school attendance and engagement in the post-pandemic era.

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