GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KREX) — State education officials recently released a study that reveals more than a quarter of Colorado students were chronically absent from school last year.

The Colorado Department of Education considers a student to be chronically absent if they miss more than 10% of school, whether those absences are excused or not.

During the 2022-2023 school year, 31% of Colorado students were considered chronically absent, a drop from last year’s 36 percent. The trend is no different in western Colorado.

Allie Freismuth, student and family engagement coordinator for Montrose County School District, tells WesternSlopeNow MCSD’s absenteeism rate for the 2021-2022 school year was 54%, but it dropped to 35% for the 2022-2023 year.

District 51 has also seen a decline in absences. Tracy Gallegos, director of access, opportunity & family partnerships for D51, tells WesternSlopeNow they’ve seen a one percent decrease in absences every year for the last three years.

Both districts have a plan to combat absenteeism. District 51 has implemented “attendance celebrations.”

“[Attendance celebrations are] a series of different activities to kind of fit the school culture to celebrate good attendance,” Gallegos said. These celebrations include things like assemblies or incentive programs.

For Montrose ISD, they’ve established the position of Student-Family Engagement Coordinator this year, hiring two people to fill the position.

Matt Jenkins, public information officer for Montrose ISD tells WesternSlopeNow that they’ve also created alternative schooling options for students who may not be as engaged in a traditional school setting.

“We’ve got an entirely outdoor learning campus called Outer Range where students at various grade levels can learn outside… We started last year Black Canyon High School, which is an alternative grade nine through 12. High school for students who aren’t successful in our other high schools… We’ve got Peak Academy, which offers a hybrid online instruction,” Jenkins says.

Both districts have seen a decrease in chronic absenteeism from the 21-22 school year to the 22-23 school year, and say they’ll keep working to ensure the downward trend continues.