COVID Omicron News: Absentee rate of students, staff rise in school districts on Long Island

Stacey Sager Image
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
Absentee rate high among students, staff in Long Island schools
School districts on Long Island, like Hempstead Middle School, are struggling to keep schools open for in-person learning amid staffing shortages. Stacey Sager has more.

HEMPSTEAD, Long Island (WABC) -- Just as COVID cases are rising, so is the absentee rate of students and staff in some school districts on Long Island.

Eyewitness News visited Hempstead Middle School in Nassau County Wednesday, where the student absentee rate today was a whopping 35%. That's up from just 26% on Monday.

The numbers do vary greatly from school-to-school, district-to-district and while some districts have gone completely remote due to staffing shortages, Hempstead has so far, been determined to remain open for in-person learning.

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"Just making sure I have enough staff to continue with in-person learning, I really do not wanna go remote," Hempstead Superintendent Regina Armstrong said.

The superintendent added that in terms of staffing, fewer were absent on Wednesday than Monday, and they have been able to shuffle staff around to cover all classes.

"We've also been utilizing our guidance counselors, social workers, and even assistant principals and principals, to cover classes, if necessary," Armstrong said.

The concern in Hempstead is many parents are without any childcare, and that kids would remain home, unsupervised.

"Now, if there's an outbreak here, I'd have to go to plan B or plan C," Hempstead Pre-K parent Omar Stephens said.

"We don't wanna put parents in a position where they don't have enough money to pay their bills, because the students are sitting at home, instead of in school," Armstrong said.

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The absentee rate from school to school can vary, within any given district, so in this district, the superintendent is hoping that if they had to close anything, it would be done, building by building, and not district-wide.

Perhaps most importantly - the philosophy here is that in-person learning is simply more effective. Especially with the youngest kids.

"You learn when you're in that classroom, and the teacher's actually engaging," Pre-K parent Maribel Bennett.

The value of that teacher interaction is clearly set against the backdrop of the growing number of COVID cases.

"The world's not shutting down, so schools should not be shutting down," Armstrong said.

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