RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — During Monday night’s Richmond School Board meeting, members called the district’s chronic student absences “unacceptably high.”

Findings shared at the meeting, held on Monday, Jan. 2, indicated that a number of factors are contributing to the chronic student absence rate and called upon parents and the community to collaborate in finding the solution.

During the meeting, Shadae Harris, RPS’ Chief Engagement Officer, presented the latest data on chronic absenteeism. According to Harris, the amount of chronically absent students dropped from 27.7% in 2021 to 25.9% in 2022. However, board members still found the number to be unacceptably high.

“There’s no way to describe where we’re at other than a colossal failure,” said board member Jonathan Young. “When I joined this board, we were at 19% chronic absenteeism which only increased.”

Harris explained to board members that certain steps could be taken in the first 15 days of the school year to increase the likelihood of student attendance. These suggestions include engagement offices, social workers and family liaisons.

Other factors believed to be affecting student attendance include a recent spike in respiratory illnesses and lack of transportation.

The crisis follows a challenging academic year for Richmond Public Schools, including teacher vacancies, curriculum changes and the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.