FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The term chronic absenteeism has become a buzzword in schools since the start of the pandemic as many schools across the US have had a rise in students missing a large number of days with no relationship to COVID-19.

Chronic absenteeism is defined as missing more than 10% of the school year, meaning students are missing 18 days or more in some states.

Indiana has seen a nearly 10% increase in students missing up to a half day of school. In the 2018-2019 school year students missed 11.18%, already putting the state of Indiana into the chronic absenteeism category. In the 2021-2022 school year that number doubled to 21.2%. With this change, it is believed that many students are put at risk of eventually dropping out.

Indiana has also seen a drop in enrollment numbers from the two school years, as the 18-19 school year saw an enrollment rate of 1,035,470 and the 21-22 school year had a rate of 1,015,440 students. While this drop may be connected to the pandemic as Indiana set no policies for masks the high rate of absences shows no direct correlation with the pandemic.

Data showing the chronic absenteeism rates for the 19-20 school year from Indiana Department of Education

According to the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) in the 19-20 school year, the latest data posted on the website, the highest chronic absenteeism rates came from students who were homeless or suffered from displacement such as foster children. Educators and experts weighed in saying students are missing so much school, from housing instability to anxiety and depression to frayed relationships with parents and students, which aligns with statistics.

While data for the latest school year has yet to be released, some states, Connecticut and Massachusetts, have stated that chronic absenteeism remained at double its pre-pandemic rate.

The absences come at an awful time for a generation already hit hard by the pandemic. They have added to the class time students missed during school closures, compounding the challenge as schools work to address gaps in learning.