DENVER, Colo. — In Tuesday's COVID-19 press conference, Gov. Jared Polis and education officials emphasized a need for children to be attending school, either in-person or online, after seeing a decline in enrollment across the state.
Polis recognized there could be a multitude of reasons why students aren't enrolled and engaged because of the pandemic. He reminded parents who don't want their children attending in-person classes can enroll them in any online program in the state.
"We really worry about those lost kids that aren't going to school in person and whose parents didn't enroll them in an online school. Please, take that step for your kids to make sure that they have that opportunity to stay caught up with where their classmates are at so that they're ready to re-enter the schools when you feel it's safe," Polis said.
Students who aren't attending school right now could face a loss in learning anywhere from three months to two years, particularly for younger students, according to Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. His district has seen a steep decline in enrollment, but some students began the return to the classroom Monday.
"Even through the masks we could see and feel the sheer joy that they had at reconnecting with classmates, reconnecting with teachers and having the opportunity to seize upon this moment to further their education," Munn said.
The Colorado Commissioner of Education, Katy Anthes, said children who don't attend school in some capacity aren't just impacted in the classroom. They're missing out on critical resources, like school meals, health services and connection to peers and caring adults. She emphasized the importance of parents making sure their kids are not only enrolled, but also engaged in the classroom every day.
"We cannot let our children's education become a casualty of this pandemic," Anthes said.
Attending school is critical to the development of kids and adolescents and keeps them from feeling isolated and alone, according to Dr. Chris Rogers, a child and adolescent psychiatrist. He said students who attend school are more likely to reach out to peers or a trusted adult if they're struggling. Kids do their best when they know what to expect in their day-to-day life, Rogers said.
This information comes just two days before the Student October Count on Thursday, a day used to collect data on student attendance that's critical for school funding.