During the period of October 18-22 there were 639 student absences across the seven schools in the Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD), only 284 of which were non-COVID related. That’s 355 instances in one week in which students were absent from school while awaiting COVID test results, experiencing symptoms or quarantined for contact tracing.

That’s the third-highest number of absences seen in the district in a month, with the highest being 664 student absences in the week of October 4-7, with 316 non-COVID related, bringing the number of COVID-related absences for the week to 348. During the week of September 27-October 1, there were 652 student absences, 407 of which were COVID-related.

With a total of 1,619 students in the district, that’s roughly one quarter of students absent from school due to COVID symptoms or contact tracing. In a year where the Vermont Agency of Education has recommended in-person learning only, that means quarantined/absent students have no access to learning.

From September 13-October 20, 9.1% of Moretown students were absent, 8.7% of Warren students were absent and 7.9% of Brookside students were absent. Other schools in the district ranged from 6.2% to 7.5%. The highest rates of absenteeism occurred in the district’s youngest students, who are unvaccinated. Kindergarteners throughout the district were by far the most frequently absent, with 13.5% total kindergarteners absent from September 13-October 20. Other grades ranged from 6.2% to 8.2% absent. In Warren 22% of kindergarteners and 21.5% of Waitsfield kindergarteners were absent in that five-week period.

With vaccine approval for 5-11-year-olds anticipated soon, the trend in young student absenteeism may decrease. This is the third year that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted students’ education.