By Alejandra O’Connell-Domenech
A little over 280,000 students have attended school in person since the city began its phased-in reopening plan in September, Mayor de Blasio said on Monday.
The announcement means that officials reopened public schools for only a quarter of the city’s 1.1 million public school students. In August, de Blasio predicted that nearly 700,000 public school students would participate in the city’s hybrid learning model where students take classes two to three days a week in person.
“This number is one that we have understood to be a work in progress,” said de Blasio. “It’s lower than what we had pre-COVID. Some of that is understandable because of the dislocation that’s occurred but we need to get it back to the number we had before.”
An email from the Department of Education clarified that 280,000 students have stepped inside a school for class “at least once so far.”
De Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza reported that the average percentage of hybrid learning students attending class every day is 85.3% a significant drop from last year’s attendance rate of 92 %. The Officials added that an average of 82.9% of students are attending in-person classes while an average of 85.5% of students are attending remote classes.
Average attendance rates for both in-person and remote classes have gone up in the five weeks since school reopened, an email from department officials claim. During the first week of classes when all students were remote, the average attendance rate was 79.4%, according to the email. The week of Sept. 21, when the city’s youngest hybrid learners returned to school, the average increased to 85.3 %. In the following weeks the average attendance rate increased to 86.2%, 86.6% and 87.2% consecutively, the department said.
Parents and teachers have long claimed that the mayor and chancellor’s representation of overall interest in hybrid learning is inaccurate and that both officials and the Department of Education have misrepresented hybrid and remote learning enrollment.
The department releases weekly updates on hybrid and remote learning enrollment which only includes the percentage of students based on a city survey and has never provided attendance numbers. Unless a parent or guardian chooses to opt their child into remote learning the department assumes they want their child to be enrolled in hybrid learning.
Some remain skeptical of the numbers. One Brooklyn high school teacher told reporters something that causes her to question the data is the fact the city automatically enrolled higher schoolers who have essentially dropped out to work full-time, referred to as “Long Term Absences,” into hybrid learning.
“It’s just another slice of kids who are not actually attending anything, but who the mayor says are evidence of how much families want in person,” said English and ELA teacher at Franklin D. Roosevelt High School Sarah Yorra.
Public school families will only have one more opportunity to opt-in to hybrid learning for the remainder of the year which will begin Nov. 2 and end on Nov. 15.
“Now that they’ve seen the schools up and running for a month they have gotten a chance to see how schools are working and parents have gotten a lot more information,” de Blasio said.
This story first appeared on amny.com.