Student absences soar in Cobb County elementary schools

Cobb County Schools counted thousands of absences in the first three days after the winter break. (File photo)

Combined ShapeCaption
Cobb County Schools counted thousands of absences in the first three days after the winter break. (File photo)

Editor’s note: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution requested data for all student absences for last week from Cobb schools. After this story was published, the district said the data provided was only for elementary schools. This story has been updated.

The Cobb County School District tallied 17,510 student absences in elementary schools in the first three days after winter break as COVID-19 case numbers across Georgia hit record highs.

The state’s second-largest district returned to in-person learning as planned on Jan. 5, even as six metro Atlanta school systems temporarily pivoted to virtual instruction.

Cobb schools counted more than five times the number of absences in elementary schools in 2022 as it did in the same time period before the pandemic, according to information obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution through an open records request.

There were 13,205 elementary student absences in Cobb schools in the same period last year. There were 3,116 elementary student absences in the same period in 2020 before the pandemic.

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There were 1,378 teacher absences in the first three days back this year. There were 852 in the previous year and 1,070 in 2020.

Increased staff absences posed a problem in most metro Atlanta school districts after the break. Cobb schools saw “staffing patterns which are similar to COVID-19′s effect on the last two calendar years,” a district spokeswoman said in an email.

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The school system has not published COVID-19 case numbers since Dec. 17, the last day of the fall semester. As of that date, the district has recorded more than 6,500 COVID-19 cases for the 2021-2022 school year. Up to that date, the highest count — 1,033 — was recorded the week ending Aug. 27.

“Recent changes to our public health protocols, and their impact on accurate COVID-19 case counts, are under review,” a spokeswoman told the AJC in an email. “Once determined, we will provide an update, on our COVID-19 webpage, about what process we will use going forward.”

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Student absences

  • Jan. 5-7, 2022: 17,510
  • Jan. 6-8, 2021: 13,205
  • Jan. 6-8, 2020: 3,116

Teacher absences

  • Jan. 5-7, 2022: 1,378
  • Jan. 6-8, 2021: 852
  • Jan. 6-8, 2020: 1,070