A remote option is coming back to city schools in response to plunging attendance amid a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Under a new Department of Education policy, students who don’t show up even though they are not sick or under quarantine won’t be marked absent if they meet with teachers on Zoom office hours and get class materials online.
Students can still be marked present, for instance, if they log onto Google Classroom to view PowerPoint presentations, subject notes and assignments. They can also communicate with teachers via email.
“We’re giving students permission to stay home as long as they are showing some level of participation online,” a Queens teacher told The Post.
“The city is making attendance rates go up.”
The change, quietly posted online Friday and first reported by Gothamist, came a day after Mayor Eric Adams revealed he was willing to negotiate a “temporary remote option” with the teachers’ union. Schools Chancellor David Banks, speaking to a parents’ council the day before, cited “political pressure” among concerns.
After the holiday break on Jan. 3, attendance in DOE schools sunk to 67 percent. On Friday, the attendance was 75 percent. With an enrollment of 938,000 students, that means 234,500 kids missed classes.
Meanwhile, the cases of COVID-19, fueled by the highly contagious Omicron variant, have steadily mounted. On Friday alone, the DOE reported 4,536 students and 616 staffers with new infections, bringing the total since classes started in September to 143,647.
In an email to principals last week, First Deputy Chancellor Dan Weisberg said schools “cannot be required” to give online instruction or office hours to students absent for “non-COVID reasons” or if a family is keeping a student home and is requesting assignments.
“However, if staff are willing and their supervisor approves,” they can do so “and be compensated accordingly,” Weisberg wrote.
Schools can now mark students present using the reason code “65,” which can mean either present in-person — or absent from the classroom but learning remotely.
Mark Cannizzaro, president of the city principals’ union, said Saturday on the WBAI radio show “Talk out of School” that previously some students who didn’t show up were logging on to learn or get work, but “there was no way to mark them present.”
It’s unclear if the DOE will release data on students marked present remotely, as opposed to in-person.
DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer said the city still considers schools “the safest places for young people to be,” but is trying to be the most flexible in providing an education to every student.”
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