Every weekday, thousands of Bay Area students log into their classrooms.
RELATED: Bay Area high school students frustrated with heavy workload, lack of guidance during virtual learning
"And it's almost like we transformed under COVID what does it mean to make sure a child has basic access to education," said Hedy Chang, President and Founder of Attendance Works.
Attendance Works is an organization whose mission includes reducing chronic absence.
It used to be making sure you got to school and had the right supplies. Now it's having the right device, connectivity, bandwidth and a safe, quiet space to learn uninterrupted.
"And not everyone is living in those kinds of housing conditions," said Chang.
"For one group of kids, the kids who have access to technology, showing up to school is much easier than before. For another group of kids it's much harder because they don't have the technology, the internet and so absences are going to be much more concentrated in those populations," said Chang.
VIDEO: 8-year-old boy keeps video diary highlighting ups and downs of distance learning
Data from San Francisco Unified School District, Oakland Unified School District and San Mateo Union High School District shows greater increases in absences during distance learning for some ethnic groups more than others.
In San Mateo Union High School District, absences for Pacific Islander students increased nearly 16% this year. Absences for Hispanic students increased nearly 7%.
The district says these groups have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. High school students in these groups are more likely to be taking care of younger siblings or working to help support their families.
"You know something has to give and one of the things that gives is being online during the school day," said Kevin Skelly, Superintendent San Mateo Union High School District.
RELATED: San Francisco opens community learning hubs to help students navigate virtual classes
Skelly says outreach workers are focused on increasing student engagement.
"Visiting homes, talking to students, figuring out what we can do to help," said Skelly.
A similar picture emerges in Oakland, where absences by Pacific Islander students are up 7% as compared to last school year.
OUSD tells the I-TEAM it's been more difficult to reach this group of students during distance learning for the same reasons as in San Mateo; students taking care of smaller siblings or working to help support their families.
RELATED: Oakland teachers face challenges as schools enter critical learning phase due to COVID-19 pandemic
OUSD has contracted additional services this year to conduct outreach to all Pacific Islander families.
In San Francisco, attendance rates have decreased more for African American students and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students than they have for other ethnic groups.
Attendance for African American students is down nearly 6.5% and attendance for native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander students is down more than 6%.
SFUSD says in partnership with UC Berkeley it is engaged in a research project to reduce inequalities in chronic absenteeism.
Take a look at all of ABC7's Building a Better Bay Area stories and videos here.
If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here. Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here RELATED STORIES & VIDEOS:
- COVID-19 Help: Comprehensive list of resources, information
- Watch list: Counties where COVID-19 is getting worse
- MAP: Everything that's open, forced to close in Bay Area
- Everything to know about CA's confusing reopening plan, summer shutdown and what comes next
- From salons to dinner parties: Experts rate the risk of 12 activities
- Coronavirus origin: Where did COVID-19 come from?
- Life after COVID-19: Here's what restaurants, gyms will look like
- What is a COVID-19 genetic, antigen and antibody test?
- What will it take to get a COVID-19 vaccine and how will it be made?
- What does COVID-19 do to your body and why does it spread so easily?
- Here's how shelter in place, stay at home orders can slow spread of COVID-19
- Coronavirus Timeline: Tracking major moments of COVID-19 pandemic in San Francisco Bay Area
- Experts compare face shield vs. face mask effectiveness
- COVID-19 Diaries: Personal stories of Bay Area residents during novel coronavirus pandemic
- Coronavirus Doctor's Note: Dr. Alok Patel gives his insight into COVID-19 pandemic