The children are not well.
More than 50 schools in the city had at least half of their students absent on Thursday amid an attendance crisis from the Department of Education.
Hundreds of thousands of the city’s roughly one million public school children have yet to enter a classroom since the end of winter vacation, forcing Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks to reconsider a distance learning option this week.
Due to COVID cases, infection fears and rising absenteeism, the DOE hasn’t reached 80% attendance in two weeks — and recorded an overall absenteeism rate of 23% on Thursday.
“There is no learning at these schools,” said teacher Lydia Howrilka, noting that schools have to combine classes due to low attendance and that hallways in many DOE buildings are remarkably quiet.
“There is no learning in these schools,” she said.
A veteran Brooklyn teacher said some kids are transitioning to class right now, at least in part, because so many of their regular teachers are out of action.
“The kids see the sub for a few days and realize it’s not the real school and they check it out,” she said.
Dozens of struggling city campuses have seen more than half of their children disappear in the new semester.
Independence High School saw just 19% of its 300 children Thursday, according to DOE figures.
At the Lower Manhattan Arts Academy, 66% of the 346 students were trending.
About 73% of children at Judith Kaye High School in Manhattan were missing Thursday, while Eagle Academy for Young Men in Harlem had an attendance rate of 50%.
The number of cases has exploded in recent weeks due to the Omicron variant and a sharp increase in student testing.
Brooklyn College and CUNY Grad Center education professor David Bloomfield said a variety of factors are suppressing attendance, including COVID illnesses, isolation requirements, general pandemic fears and school truancy. .
“There are a lot of schools that are running at 50% or less,” he said. “I think Adams and Banks are looking at reality rather than soundbytes at this point.”
Bloomfield said a segment of the city’s children have grown accustomed to not going to school amid constant interruptions brought on by the pandemic.
“The risk versus the reward at this point is not worth breaking this cycle,” he said.
The DOE pointed out Friday that attendance has increased since Dec. 23 and absenteeism is expected to decline.
“Our educators work every day to connect with families and remove any barriers to attendance because children are the safest in school,” spokesperson Nathaniel Styer said. “Attendance has increased by 10% since the return from winter vacation and hundreds of thousands of students are receiving an education every day in our public schools.”
Some of the city’s largest secondary schools continued to see around 1,000 children absent each day this week.
Forest Hills High School, which has nearly 4,000 students, had an absenteeism rate of 27% on Thursday.
Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, which serves 3,700 children, had almost a third of them absent.
The city’s specialized high schools had significantly higher attendance rates than the overall city average, according to DOE figures.
Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan had an 88% attendance rate Thursday while Brooklyn Tech saw 85% of its children in attendance.
Transfer schools, which teach some of the city’s most vulnerable children, have suffered the lowest attendance rates in the city since the end of the winter break.
Banks said he expects numbers to normalize in the near future as the latest wave of coronavirus begins to ebb.
New York Post