PSS enrolment record shows that the number of students who have registered for this school year was down by 141 compared to the previous school year.
Robert L. Coldeen III, coordinator of the Board of Education’s Student Attendance Review Committee or SARC, said as of September 2020, the public schools on Saipan, Tinian and Rota had 9,345 students.
He said before the schools were shut down early this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, PSS had 9,486 students.
Coldeen said the Division of Youth Services and SARC are trying to locate the families of students who have yet to register or are not attending their classes.
“We will continue our efforts and remain fully committed to ensuring the fundamental right to a free public education for all children,” Coldeen said.
Commissioner Ada said PSS is doing everything it can to address the impact of Covid-19 pandemic on families and the children’s education.
He admitted that remote learning and face-to-face classes that comply with all the safety rules are going to be difficult for families and too costly for the government.
Ada also recognizes the anxiety and other mental health issues that many families are experiencing as result of the pandemic.
He said PSS has conducted a survey among students, “and we are finding out that there are hundreds of them who have shown signs of anxiety, depression or loneliness because of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
He added, “We’ve got to address the children’s mental health. Social and emotional learning comes first before you can teach the child.”
Ada at the same time reminds parents that “it’s against the law not to register your children in school — it’s educational neglect if they don’t.”
He said since September, PSS teachers have been spending time to reach out to the parents of students who have not attended either the online or face-to-face classes.
He said parents were supposed to register their children in August, “but many of them haven’t.”
“They were supposed to register online due to Covid-19,” he added. “However, some schools invited parents to come to the campus so they could sit side-by-side with their kids to help them register. Some parents came, but the others — we had to go to them because they lacked transportation,” Ada said.
“Now we are finding out from the principals that teachers have been reporting that some kids were not registered and some who were registered were not attending classes even for remote learning, so teachers have been going out and doing home visits,” he added.
PSS will determine what exactly the reasons are for these students’ failure to attend classes, Ada said. In the meantime, “we also want the SARC involved.”
Created by Public Law 16-47, the SARC aims to address truancy, irregular attendance, insubordination or disorderly behavior in school at the community level before the offenders are referred to the juvenile justice system.
Ready to assist
In separate interviews, Division of Youth Services Administrator Vivian Sablan and Probation Officer Sylvio Ada said they are ready to assist PSS in addressing issues caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
DYS child protection and juvenile probation units are part of the SARC, along with Department of Public Safety’s juvenile protection unit and the Coalition of Private Schools.
“We are very supportive since Day 1 to make sure that we intervene in any prevention efforts to achieve the goals and objectives of the committee,” Sablan said, referring to the SARC.
For his part, Probation Officer Sylvio Ada said the committee’s intervention efforts started two months ago. “We were anticipating that this is going to happen,” he said referring to the students’ failure to attend school.
He said his office has already designated the persons who will conduct home visitations.