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Concerns raised about school attendance as remote learning gets underway in Washington

Washington law requires children between the ages of 8 and 18 to attend school regularly with some exceptions, but some district's are seeing a lack of attendance.

SEATTLE — As students around Washington state start the school year with remote learning, it has been rough for some families. 

Seattle Public Schools reported this week that half of the district's students are not logging into the system during what the district is referring to as a Strong Start week. 

"These first days of school will ensure a strong foundation for the rest of the year," according to the SPS website. Full instructional schedules are set to begin on Monday.

When it comes to attendance, Washington state requires children between the ages of 8 and 18 to attend public, private or home-based school regularly with some exceptions. 

In 2017, the National Center for Education Statistics posted the compulsory school attendance laws, and in every state the age of required school attendance was 5, 6, or 7-years-old.

Washington and Pennsylvania were the only exceptions, listing 8 as the age. But Pennsylvania changed their law. Starting this year in the Keystone State, students must attend school no later than age 6.

Professor Kristen Missall is the Director of the University of Washington's School Psychology Program. She also specializes in early education.

When asked if 8-years-old is too late to begin requiring regular attendance, Missall said,"Data from head start programs and other types of compensatory programs have shown to make a real difference in giving kids the boost they need, which suggest to me that eight maybe too late. Early school experiences can be really essential for many children."

"We know that early gaps, particularly in reading and math development that develop from kindergarten through third grade, tend to persist and follow students on through their schooling experience," Missall continued.

The professor, a parent herself, said that's why attendance, even during this difficult time, is crucial.

"Even though I fully recognize and appreciate the challenges with the way education is being delivered right now, it is still important I would argue for students to have an opportunity to engage in what the schools are offering," said Missall.