Coronavirus News: Pandemic learning leads to online attendance concerns

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- As more than a million kids prepare to head back to school in New York City, there are new concerns about whether those who are learning remotely will show up and engage in online classes.

It has been easy for teachers to take attendance when a student is sitting directly in front of them in a classroom. It's not as easy when they're learning through a computer screen. Not all classes have live instructors.

"I'm honestly super nervous when September 10 comes, I don't know what's going to happen," parent Silvana Carrion said.

She said it's difficult to work and make sure her 6-year-old is tuned into classes online.

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"I think actually going to school is better for him, then sitting behind a computer cause kids don't learn enough behind a computer," Carrion said.

The chair of the city's' Committee on Education requested a school by school breakdown of attendance numbers since the pandemic started.

That was three months ago. He's still waiting for the records.

"A kid logged onto an iPad does not mean they're actually learning," Mark Treyger said. "I asked them how many kids are getting live instruction and how many are not, they couldn't tell me."

During a hearing back in May, school officials had said they were forced to quickly change the way they keep track of attendance, including counting who submits assignments, who chats in online class forums, and even whose parent calls the teacher to check in on their child.
"The transition to remote learning made us really have to change and build an entirely new system," said LaShawn Robinson, the Deputy Chancellor of School Climate and Wellness.

In May, school officials said attendance dropped roughly from 93% to 86% during online learning.

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Councilman Treyger sent a follow up letter after that spring meeting to get more specific attendance breakdowns.

He recently announced he's writing city legislation that, if it passes, would require the NYC Department of Education to take attendance and release the numbers publicly.

During a public press conference Monday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said "I think it's a real challenge" and the school chancellor said they've had more time to prepare for this upcoming school year.

"We'll be tracking it," Chancellor Richard Carranza said. "We will make it public and there's going to be more to say about that this week."

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