Schools are experiencing an increase in students staying home from school, pointing to concerns over COVID-19 as the Biden administration attempts to keep kids in schools.
Authorities have said that lots of K-12 students are either home sick with COVID-19 or being kept out of school by parents who are worried. Remote teaching is frequently no longer an option for kids who stay home, meaning teachers will likely have lots of kids who will be behind in their classwork when they come back to school.
The Wall Street Journal reported, “New York City, the nation’s largest school district, saw its overall attendance rate fall below 70% when classes resumed after the winter holidays, far beneath the district’s pre-pandemic average of over 91% students at school each day. Many students missed class because of fears of contracting the virus or because they or a family member had tested positive, teachers said.”
The outlet added that Boston Public Schools attendance has been around 70% since the end of the winter recess, according to officials. Before the winter break, attendance was around 90%.
Around two-thirds of public school students in Chicago were in class on January 3 after winter recess, and those numbers went up to 72% the following day. “By comparison, attendance was about 85% during the last week of school before winter break and historically has been above 90%, according to the school district,” the Journal noted.
“In Rochester, N.Y., public school attendance last week ranged from 61% to 66%, according to school district data,” per the outlet. Only 44% of students at one high school were in class on January 3, and barely half went to school at an elementary school, Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small reportedly said at a school board meeting on January 4. The school district ended up moving to remote learning on a temporary basis.
Low attendance numbers add to the issues that schools face, including teacher shortages.
“In Dallas, teacher and school staff absences are up but remain at the high end of normal levels, officials say.” School authorities in Albuquerque, New Mexico, noted that student attendance was probably lower than typical numbers, but the district hasn’t been able to obtain full information due to a lack of administrative staff.
Getting kids to school — and keeping them in class — has been a key issue for many areas that are beginning to notice the negative impact of remote learning on children’s education and mental health.
The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is going to offer tests to schools beginning this month to help with supply issues and support schools reopening, per The Associated Press.
The White House will apportion a supply of 5 million rapid tests and 5 million PCR tests.
The move comes after Chicago Public Schools shut down for several days as the teachers union pressed for more COVID-19 measures.
The Daily Wire reported on Tuesday that the school district and the teachers union reached an agreement following days of standoff between the two as teachers refused to work.
The Washington Post reported that Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) told reporters that Chicago would broaden testing and build up contact tracing. They will also provide standards for shutting down schools with outbreaks. The Chicago Teachers Union’s members had discussed worries and fear over contracting the coronavirus in school.
Teachers in Chicago have been pushing for more safety conditions in the schools, like KN95 masks for teachers and students, testing to happen more often, and the ability to take unpaid leave if a worker’s medical situation makes them high-risk if they get COVID-19. Teachers also put forward standards for stopping in-person teaching in the midst of virus outbreaks.
The deal also allows schools to go remote if 25% of the workers test positive for COVID-19, per Fox News.
At a press conference, Lightfoot said, “No one’s more frustrated than I am. We should have stayed at the table and worked this out. That’s why I said early on ‘enough is enough’ and drew the line. This was not necessary to happen.”