NYC School Attendance Rates Improving As More Students Poised To Return To Classrooms Monday

More than a third of the city’s public school kids are enrolled in some form of in-person learning, with the majority of the system choosing to stay in full-time remote learning, the Department of Education announced in updated attendance figures Friday.

As of April 16th, about 327,000 students in grades 3-K through 12th grade were enrolled in blended learning, which combines in-person learning with remote classes. There will be another 51,000 students returning to classrooms starting Monday, after they enrolled in blended learning in the last opt-in period. Still, 378,000 students represent less than 40% of the school system’s 960,000-student total.

With only about two months left in the school year, Mayor Bill de Blasio—who’s a major booster of in-person learning—decided to allow more students to return to blended learning after the Centers for Disease Control updated federal guidelines in March and relaxed distancing requirements inside classrooms.

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While all students across all grades could opt to return to hybrid learning, the first wave to return will be limited to 3K, Pre-K, elementary, and District 75 students. Because the CDC’s guidance for middle and high schoolers is more complicated, their return date will be determined later, de Blasio has said.

De Blasio said the return of more remote-learning students to classrooms will not dramatically change the planning that principals and teachers have instituted, after the chaotic return to school in the fall. Last year, de Blasio had said remote-learning students would have four chances to opt-in to hybrid learning, then changed those plans as staffing shortages became apparent.

The DOE said the average attendance rate last week for in-person learning was 91.7%, similar to attendance rates before the pandemic. From the start of this school year, the average daily attendance rate is 88.8%, the DOE said.

Seen as a key predictor of student achievement, studies on attendance have shown that students who miss class are far less likely to graduate from high school. In the early days of the pandemic, right after the school system pivoted to remote learning last April, the attendance rate dropped to 85.9%. At the beginning of the school year, it was 88.6%, though that number slipped a little after schools shut down again in November.

The DOE did not release data on attendance by grade level.