Low attendance seen in many reopened NYC schools, data shows

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While Mayor de Blasio trumpets his school reopening as a major triumph, the number of students showing up in buildings each day still totals less than 15 percent of all kids in the system, attendance data obtained by The Post show.

Last week, 488 high schools joined elementary and middle schools now open for students in “blended learning” schedules, a mix of in-person and online classes.  

But only 14,312 high-school kids came into buildings on Tuesday — 5 percent of the 282,000 enrolled. Another 3,040 who were supposed to be in school skipped classes that day — an absentee rate of 17.5 percent, according to internal Department of Education records.

Overall, daily attendance in 1,619 open schools hit a weekly high of 129,982 students on Tuesday. Another 12,309 were no-shows Tuesday, according to DOE data posted internally that evening.

That’s only 14.5 percent of the total DOE register, which has dropped to 890,828 students since last year, when more than a million kids were on the rolls, the records reveal.

Thousands of students have switched to charters, parochial and other private schools, or moved out of the city since the COVID-19 pandemic threw the DOE into turmoil.

Despite repeated requests, the DOE has not released attendance numbers.

Last week, some high schools seemed eerily vacant.

About 8 am Thursday morning, only a handful of teens trickled into the main entrance at Brooklyn Tech, a specialized high school with nearly 5,900 registered students. 

At Forest Hills HS in Queens, “It’s a ghost town. It’s depressing,” said social studies teacher Jordan Pincus. “There’s nobody in the hall, nobody walking around. There’s just nothing happening, no activity.”

Less than 50 of the registered 3,745 students came each day last week, records show.

Every kid in the building takes classes on laptops with their teachers working remotely. Pincus teaches all his 160 students remotely four days a week, and supervises classrooms in person once a week.

“We’re never teaching when we’re in the building.” Pincus said. “We’re just babysitting.”

Last week, Pincus supervised two classrooms. In one, only three of nine students on the roster came in. In the other, just one of eight students showed up.

One 9th-grader who attends in-person called it “disappointing” that “any random teacher” supervises the room. She has never asked the supervisor for help.

“If you can have teachers sit in a class, you have them teach in a class,” the 14-year -old told The Post.

Wearing a mask, she stays in the same classroom all day with three other students — each  taking different courses remotely. She doesn’t even know their names.

Still, she’s happy to walk to and from school, and learn on her laptop in a classroom instead of in her bedroom. “I just enjoy being anywhere else but home,” she said.

Most instruction is live at nearby Queens Metropolitan HS, which serves about 1,100 kids in Forest Hills, Glendale and Middle Village. Two groups of about 165 students each take turns attending classes in person two days a week, and all kids can come once a week for tutoring, counseling and clubs.. 

“Metro” teachers instruct both in-person and remote students simultaneously — a practice their union has frowned upon.

“It’s the closest to normalcy I can get right now,” senior Yani Barrientos, 17, told The Post. “I get to see my friends and teachers, and have a little interaction.”

While in class, Yani still tunes into Zoom, so when she takes part in a discussion or asks a question, the remote students hear her, and she hears them.

When asked at a press conference last week how many students citywide are getting live classroom instruction, Mayor de Blasio gave no answer. A DOE spokesman did not respond to the question.

The DOE has reported only attendance percentages, which can be misleading. 

For instance, Hillside Arts & Letters Academy, a Jamaica high school with 452 students, reported 100% attendance on Tuesday — which meant all five students enrolled in blended learning came in.

World Academy for Total Community Health HS in East New York, which has a register of 163 students, had the fewest students in blended learning that day. Of four kids counted in person, two were marked absent — a 50 percent attendance rate, the data show.

Overall, high schools showed the lowest in-school numbers.

On Tuesday, elementary schools, which reopened last December, tallied 69,515 students, with 4,302 absent. Middle schools, which reopened last month, reported 21,320 students in person, with 1,951 absent. K-8 schools counted 13,084 students in person, 1,037 absent.

DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer called the DOE data “extremely preliminary,” because some schools entered no attendance numbers by the day’s end.

On Tuesday, 459 of the 1,619 schools showed zero in-person attendance, including 78 that failed to enter any attendance data, the records show. 

“We’re proud of our citywide in-person average attendance rate of 91 percent this week,” Styer said, giving no numbers to back it up.

The DOE has opened a new “opt-in window” until April 7 for parents of students at all levels to switch from fully-remote to blended learning through June.

De Blasio said Friday that at least 25,000 students had already signed up to return to classrooms up to five days a week, as the CDC lowered its recommended social distance among students and staff from 6 feet to 3 feet. .

“I think a lot of parents are going to want to come back,” the mayor said, but he added “there’ll be hundreds of thousands of kids who are not ready and their families are not ready until September.”

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