(WGHP) — At least two Triad school districts will soon launch efforts to track down students who were unenrolled from school during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We know of the 63,000 students that are missing in North Carolina, only about 8,000 went to charter schools. Where are the other 50,000? It’s quite the mystery,” Guilford County Schools Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras said Monday. 

The district plans to use about $490,000 from the State Department of Public Instruction to hire a vendor to help investigate the decline in enrollment. 

“We feel that some of them could be in unauthorized homeschool environments, but we need to make sure the students are OK, they’re safe, they’re learning, they’re receiving some education, and this is a quandary for the state for many reasons,” Contreras said. 

Part of the vendor’s role could include digital outreach to families to find where students are now. 

“We also hope to have a vendor that will help us doing some canvassing, so actually going out into the communities, knocking on doors and locating those folks,” Chief of Staff Dr. Rebecca Kaye said. 

In 2021-2022, Guilford County Schools reported 67,632 students in the second month of the school year, 3,781 less than in 2019. 

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools reported the number of enrolled students fell by 1,831 in the same time period. 

“We lost track simply because we could not keep track of them or did not keep track of them while we were out of school for virtual learning simply because they did not have consistent access to high-speed connectivity,” Contreras said. 

She called for better data systems to make sure students aren’t lost again. 

“Within states, it’s pretty easy to find a student who moved to another public school. But nationally, our systems don’t talk to each other from state to state, and it’s very complicated to figure out if a student has moved to South Carolina or Mississippi if you don’t get that student records,” she said. 

The district will continue accepting bids until June 27. 

Officials will then interview vendors before the Board of Education approves one. 

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools plans to put their request for bids out in a few weeks.