Regional School Unit 9 Superintendent Christian Elkington, center, speaks to the board of directors Tuesday at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington about the high rate of chronic absenteeism. From left are Assistant Superintendent Monique Poulin, Elkington, Chairperson Dorothy Robinson and Vice Chairperson Gwen Doak. Brian Ponce/Franklin Journal

FARMINGTON — Regional School Unit 9 Superintendent Christian Elkington told directors Tuesday night that all seven district schools have seen rising chronic absenteeism over the past six years and his administration is formulating a plan to address it.

Mount Blue High School had the highest rate at 38.95% in 2022-2023. By contrast, in 2017-18 it was 28.63%.

“As you can see the concerns you have heard from building principals and directors over the last year are based on the concerns we are seeing from this data,” Elkington wrote in his report. “There are no easy fixes. We are reviewing next steps as an admin team, digging into the data, and looking at it from many sides.”

Chronic absenteeism is defined by the Maine Department of Education as “missing 10% or more of school days, including excused absences.”

The district includes Academy Hill School in Wilton, Cape Cod Hill School in New Sharon, Cascade Brook School in Farmington, Gerald D. Cushing School in Wilton, Mt. Blue High School, Mt. Blue Middle School and W. G. Mallett School, all in Farmington.

A chart listing Regional School Unit 9 schools shows the rates of chronic absenteeism from school years 2017-18 compared to 2022-23. Submitted chart

The sharpest increase was at Cushing school, which went from 6.80% to 27.47%. Elkington admitted that the 2022-23 numbers were a marked improvement over last year’s numbers, where all schools were in the 30 to 50 percentile due to the after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Elkington lamented, however, that the trend of chronic absenteeism had been on the rise since before the 19 pandemic.

“We need to look and see what can we do better,” he said. “What can we fix, change and adjust.”

“One of the greatest predictors of success in school is regular attendance,” Director Carol Coles of Starks added.

Elkington first brought the issue to directors July 25, sharing an article that listed suggestions in how to handle chronic absenteeism.

“Chronic absenteeism is something that we have been looking at and we’ll be making a focus of our time this coming year,” Elkington said Tuesday. “The issue of absenteeism is of grave concern.”

Elkington said he would continue working with the administration to build data and begin putting together a plan to address it, including calling parents.

“So we’re gonna look at a try to work a little bit more closely with making more contact by phone,” he said. “Twenty years ago, you used to call when people would pick up the phone, because it didn’t tell you who it was from. Now we call, we don’t get people to pick up because sometimes they don’t really want to talk to the school, so we’ve got to somehow bridge that gap.”

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