DSS is working to locate hundreds of students who were unaccounted for during the pandemic

South Carolina News

Editor’s Note: ‘s of September 5th, “DSS has made successful contact with 2,606 students or confirmed with schools/school districts that the student has registered for the 2020-2021 school year

Only 485 students remain uncontacted despite multiple attempts to contact.  DSS continues to try and make contact with these students.”

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCBD) – The Department of Social Services is working to locate more than 500 students who went unacccounted for during the pandemic.

According to the Department of Education, ‘unaccounted for’ means these children have/had not checked in with their teachers and or the school district since May 15th.

At the start of the pandemic, the Department of Social Services reported nearly 16-thousand students were unaccounted for. In a report issued by the Department of Social Services, ‘schools and school districts were instructed by Superintendent Spearman’s office to submit uncontacted student names and known contact information by July 17, 2020.”

On July 22nd, DSS reported a total of 3,275 children/youth were still missing. That’s when DSS staff, along with local sheriffs departments, began going door to door to try and track down the missing kids. In a matter of 60 days, the agency has successfully been able to come in contact with 2,547 children out of the 3, 275 total missing. As of today, 545 children across the state of South Carolina are still unaccounted for.

In contacting the 2, 547 students, DSS learned about several factors that kept students from completing their school work. Some shared they didn’t have access to a compute or wifi. Some parents weren’t able to help their child complete their studies. Others reported difficulty contacting teachers, lack of transportation, or a language barrier.

“Also that parents had to work full time. Or, that they had to manage multiple children all in different grade levels,” Director of Communications and External Affairs for the South Carolina Department of Social Services, Connelly-Anne Ragley said. “I think that those are challenges that those in the Lowcountry faced.”

According to the report, the 545 students the Department has been unsuccessful in contacting are from the following 34 counties:

AikenAndersonBarnwell
BeaufortBerkeleyCharleston
CherokeeChesterfieldClarendon
ColletonDarlingtonDorchester
FairfieldFlorenceGeorgetown
GreenvilleGreenwoodHampton
HorryJasperLancaster
LaurensLexingtonMarion
MarlboroNewberryOconee
OrangeburgPickensRichland
SpartanburgSumterUnion
York
Provided by the Department of Social Services

The Department of Social Services is now in phase two of working to come in contact with the remaining 545 students. This includes staff working to reach out to additional contacts of the children, as well as make home visits with the information provided by the Department of Education.

“We’ve had several attempts to try to contact them. And so we’re working with school districts like Charleston County School District to really take that list to find if those children have enrolled in the new school year,” said Ragley.

In the report, it says phase two ‘will also involve outreach by county DSS staff with local schools to determine if the school has had contact with the student/family since their last report/spreadsheet provided to the State Department of Education.’

The department is relying on the public to help report these children.

The State Department of Education now has a spreadsheet of the remaining names of students with whom contact attempts have been unsuccessful.

According to the report, DSS has requested that the “State Department of Education cross-reference the remaining 545 students with their (1) Mckinney-Vento Database of students who are documented homeless, (2) with their children of migrant workers database, and (3) with Power School to determine if the student has registered for the 2020-2021 school year. DSS received a response from the State Department of Education on Sunday, August 30, 2020, which shared that no students appeared on the Migrant database and that 37 of the 545 students appeared on the McKinney-Vento database for students documented as homeless.”

DSS plans to share an additional report on uncontacted students and how many were located by mid-September.

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