PARKLAND, FLA. (WSVN) - Volunteers from Broward County Public Schools, the Broward Teachers Union and organizations from across the country came together this weekend in an effort to track down students who have been absent from campuses during the current school year.

Bags were packed, and volunteers were ready to go on Sunday for the second day in a row.

“We have identified some kids. We are finding that others are in other schools,” said Broward County School Board Chair Dr. Rosalind Osgood, “but we are sending a message to the community of how important our students are to us.”

“It’s very important for students to be in school receiving the education that they need in order to set them up for their future success,” said BCPS Interim Superintendent Dr. Vickie Cartwright.

“We’re trying to reconnect with students who haven’t physically come back into campuses yet,” said BTU President Anna Fusco.

According to educators, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the family dynamic for many households.

About 6,000 students in Broward County are unaccounted for, while approximately 5,000 others have excessive absences.

“We know right now we are in the middle of a pandemic, right? And so, there’s fear that’s out there. We know that that exists,” said Cartwright. “We also know that there are individuals who are looking for ways in which to reengage with us.”

“We’re here, we care, we’re ready,” said Fusco. “We’ve been back. We want to invite them back into the schools and let them know that it’s safe.”

After a phone campaign to reach out to those students and their families, volunteers went door to door to reengage all weekend long.

“We started off with a phone campaign, so this is actually an additional step,” said Cartwright. “We will continue with our efforts in order to locate our children because we want them back in our seats at Broward County Public Schools.”

Their message is simple: it’s safe to be back in class.

“We’re having them wear masks, we’ve got air filters being changed,” said Fusco. “They’re working on the roofs, they’re working on the air conditioning. Social distancing is a challenge, because you have so many kids, but the kids are following protocol.”

State statute dictates children age 6 to 16 must be enrolled in an educational institution. These educators from across the U.S. are making sure families know that every day missed matters.

“Even in the midst of this pandemic, all of us must prioritize the education of our children and getting them back into school where they can have the supports and services that they need to achieve academically,” said Osgood.

Broward school officials said they’ve made more than 11,000 calls to try and reach out to students. They have found that many families have chosen alternative educational programs, but they still need to hear from the others.

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