FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A new report estimates as many as 3 million children in the U.S. haven’t received any formal education – either virtual or in-person – since their school shut down in March.

“We realize there’s a huge, hidden crisis,” said Hailly Korman, a senior associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, the nonprofit organization that published the report.

“It’s not even on the way,” she said. “It’s happening right now.”

The team of researchers believes up to 25% of the country’s most vulnerable students have been missing out on learning during the past seven-plus months.

“If we look at that on the national level, that’s more than three million kids,” Korman said. “It would be like if the entire school age population of the state of Florida stopped going to school.”

Attendance is down in the largest school districts in North Texas.

“We in Fort Worth ISD have experienced about a 4.5% dip in our enrollment,” said FWISD Superintendent Dr. Kent Scribner at a school board meeting this week. “This is within the range of other large urbans.”

Dallas ISD started the school year missing about 15,000 students from its original projections.

Since then, they’ve been able to re-engage around 10,000 of those children using tools to show who logged on to remote learning platforms and how often.

“And so we called, not only the kids that were completely inactive, but those that weren’t participating every day as well, so I think that effort helped a lot,” said Sean Brinkman, the Assistant Superintendent for Technology Services for DISD.

Another part of the solution is making sure students not only have devices, but solid internet connection as well.

“If that’s not happening, the district, we need to figure out why and what we need to do about it,” Brinkman said.

Research shows even a short period of missed school can mean permanent setbacks.

“Our goal and hope in this is that people would really understand both the scale and the seriousness of the attendance crisis that we are confronted with,” Korman said.

Both Fort Worth and Dallas ISDs have seen a big drop in enrollment for pre-K and kindergarten.

Those grades are not mandatory in Texas, and many families are choosing to keep their younger students at home.

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Caroline Vandergriff