Over 50 NYC schools are missing at least half their students since returning from winter break

The kids aren’t alright.

More than 50 city schools had at least half of their students absent Thursday amid an ongoing Department of Education attendance crisis.

Hundreds of thousands of the city’s roughly one million public school kids have yet to enter a classroom since the end of winter break, forcing Mayor Eric Adams and schools Chancellor David Banks to reconsider a remote learning option this week.

Due to COVID cases, infection fears and rising truancy, the DOE has not cracked 80 percent attendance in two weeks — and had an overall 23 percent absentee rate Thursday.

“There is no learning happening in these schools,” said teacher Lydia Howrilka, noting schools are having to combine classes due to low attendance and that hallways in many DOE buildings are noticeably quiet.

A veteran Brooklyn teacher said some kids are passing on class for now, at least in part, because so many of their regular teachers are out of action.

“Kids see the sub for a few days and figure it’s not real school and they check out,” she said.

Independence High School located saw 19 percent of its students show up Thursday.
Matthew McDermott

Scores of struggling city campuses have seen more than half of their kids vanish in the new semester.

Independence High School had only 19 percent of its 300 kids show up Thursday, according to DOE numbers.

At the Lower Manhattan Arts Academy, 66 percent of 346 students were in the wind.

About 73 percent of kids at Judith Kaye High School in Manhattan were missing Thursday, while Eagle Academy for Young Men in Harlem had an attendance rate of 50 percent.

Case counts have rocketed 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 sicknesses, isolation requirements, general pandemic fears and truancy.

Empty classroom
Mayor Eric Adams and schools Chancellor David Banks are reconsidering remote learning due to the high absence rates.
Getty Images

“There are lots of schools that are hovering at 50 percent or lower,” he said. “I think Adams and Banks are looking at reality rather than sound bytes at this point.”

Bloomfield said that a segment of city kids have become habituated to not attending school amid constant interruptions wrought by the pandemic.

“The risk versus reward at this point is not worth breaking that cycle,” he said.

The DOE stressed Friday that attendance has increased since Dec. 23 and that absenteeism is expected to ease.

“Our educators work every day to connect with families and remove any barriers to attendance, because children are safest in schools,” said spokesperson Nathaniel Styer. “Attendance is up 10 percent since the return from winter break and hundreds of thousands of students are receiving an education every day in our public schools.”

Some of the city’s larger high schools have continued to see about 1,000 kids absent each day this week.

Forest Hills High School, which enrolls nearly 4,000 students, had an absentee rate of 27 percent Thursday.

An elementary school student wears a mask in the classroom to protect themself against coronavirus.
Some city schools are having to combine classes due to low attendance rates.
Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn, which enrolls 3,700 kids, had nearly a third of them absent.

The city’s specialized high schools saw sharply higher attendance rates than the overall city average, according to DOE figures.

Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan had an attendance rate of 88 percent Thursday while Brooklyn Tech saw 85 percent of its kids present.

Transfer schools, which teach some of the city’s most vulnerable kids, have suffered the lowest attendance rates in the city since the end of winter break.

Banks has said that he expects the numbers to normalize in the near future as the latest coronavirus wave begins to ebb.

Claudia has worked as a journalist for various print-based magazines for more than 5 years. She brings together substantial news pieces from various parts of the US and rest of the World.