NYC homeless student attendance drops sharply so far this school year

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More than a quarter of city kids living in shelters were absent from school in the first several weeks of the new academic year, according to a new study.

Advocates for Children of New York found that attendance plunged to just 73 percent, and that absenteeism among homeless students has steadily worsened over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attendance for all city students has hovered near 90 percent thus far in the academic year.

Citing the dire figures, ACNY has called on the Department of Education to allocate more federal funds to curb the trend.

“These alarmingly low attendance rates make clear that the DOE’s current shelter-based support system is not sufficient,” said Jennifer Pringle, Director of AFC’s Learners in Temporary Housing Project. “There needs to be dedicated, well-trained staff on the ground in the City’s shelters who can help students reconnect with school and access the educational supports they need to get back on track.”

ACNY said that roughy 30,000 kids spend time living in homeless shelters each year.

During the 2018-2019 academic year, attendance for homeless kids was 82 percent and rose slightly to 83 percent in 2019-2020 before schools shuttered.

An ACNY attendance analysis for the period between January and June of 2021 found that attendance for kids in shelters never cracked 80 percent.

The organization noted that 94 percent of kids in shelters are African-American and Hispanic.

Absenteeism from homeless students has increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Advocates for Children of New York.
Absenteeism from homeless students has increased throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Advocates for Children of New York.
Getty Images/Cavan Images RF

ACNY highlighted that absenteeism among students in shelters worsened at the high school level.

Homeless 10th graders missed one out of every three school days during the winter and spring of 2021, according to the report.

ACNY called on the DOE to hire 150 staffers who would “work on the ground in the City’s shelters and help students get to school every day.”

The agency said they would explore additional funding to that end.

“Supporting students and families affected by homelessness remains a priority for the DOE, and over the past two years, we have almost doubled the number of dedicated staff members working in school and shelters to over 300,” said DOE spokesperson Nathaniel Styer. “We continue to work with partner agencies while engaging stakeholders regarding the use of federal funds.” 

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