We are reading in the national news about the reduced numbers of students on school rolls. It’s important to be concerned by the lower numbers of students enrolled in Maine schools as well. Of special concern to educators are the students who have disappeared. They are the children most at risk – “the lost kids.”

“Let’s be honest – remote learning disenfranchises the students who can afford it least,” writes Lois Kilby-Chesley, who left teaching last June after 40 years in education. Ann in the uk/Shutterstock.com

Let’s be honest – remote learning disenfranchises the students who can afford it least. As a career teacher who left teaching at the end of last year, I can cite many examples of failure to reach our vulnerable students over my 40 years in education. One problem has always been families moving in and out of school districts from town to town and state to state and the ability to keep school records with the child.

But the pandemic, and the resulting distance learning, compound the problem.

I am a teacher who “lost” a student. My elementary student came from a known precarious situation. In the classroom, the child often shared experiences indicating health and safety were an issue at home. In a high-needs district, the student was one of many “on the radar.”

The pandemic underscored the difficulties educators have with school-to-home connections.

After the building closure in March 2020, the family was offered a computer for home use to facilitate remote learning. It was refused. As a consequence, I never saw the child for remote learning. From last March 13 until the end of the school year, the child was essentially lost. I point to a series of failures of the educational system.


After the first weeks of absenteeism, as most students were settling into a routine, I notified my principal, my lead teacher and my teaching team that the child was not joining online lessons. I asked if I could go by the home to talk to the parent but was refused access by the building administrator. I tried calling the phone number on file – no working phone. I mailed letters and schoolwork to a post office box – no response.

I talked to the principal a second time, asking for permission for a home visit. The administrator refused but promised to engage the school resource officer – I waited. In spite of the directive I did several trips by the home hoping to see the child, but without success.

I contacted the principal a third time. By then my concern was at an all-time high. Finally, in the first week of June, after more than 80 days, the resource officer made contact with the father on the porch of the family’s home but didn’t see the child.

I received a message that the father had assured the officer the child was fine, and the district was content with the answer. I was essentially shut out. This child missed the final third of the school year, but more importantly, this child lost the safety of the school experience.

The good news was, in late June, I did see the child in a car but could only wave as the car passed by.

As the pandemic drags on, I encourage others to be aware that the children most at risk before the pandemic are affected even more during this crisis. There are plenty of fingers to point. I understand that parents and educators lament the difficulties of remote learning, the problems of filling child care needs and a lost year of socialization.

Of greatest concern need to be the students who have been lost entirely to education. With students missing from school, we must do a better job of knowing where our children are and that they are safe. But schools will need your help. In this case, I fall back to a past premise: “It takes a village to raise a child.” If you know of a child who is not engaged in school, please speak up. Tell the school, but don’t stop there. Make sure your voice is heard. One child left out of teaching and learning is one child too many.

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