School Attendance Falls for Homeless Students in N.Y.C.

New York City students without permanent housing have significantly lower attendance rates than students with permanent housing, a reality that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated, a daunting new study released this week revealed.

Advocates for Children of New York, a nonprofit group, analyzed attendance data from the New York City Department of Education and found that attendance rates for students living in shelters fell to just 73 percent in the first few weeks of the new school year. The attendance rate for all New York City students is around 90 percent this year so far.

The study, released on Monday, noted that students living in shelters had a hard time making it to class before the pandemic began, but the virus has only made things worse.

Each year, roughly 30,000 students in New York spend time living in shelters. The average attendance rate for homeless students during the 2019-2020 school year was around 83 percent, compared to 92 percent for permanently housed students, before school buildings were closed in March 2020.

But from January to June of this year, attendance rates for homeless students trailed behind those of students with permanent housing by 10.6 to 14.1 percentage points, depending on the month.

“These are days of instruction that they can’t get back,” Jennifer Pringle, director of Advocates for Children’s Learners in Temporary Housing project, said. “Homelessness and education are inextricably linked. So if we really want to break the cycle of homelessness we need to focus on education and make sure that families and students have the supports that they need to overcome these barriers to attendance.”

The group said it was calling on the city to use federal Covid-19 relief money to hire 150 community coordinators to help students get to class every day.

Ms. Pringle said the community coordinators would proactively reach out to families and provide resources to help get students to school regularly.

“That could be things like helping out with child care, helping out with busing, helping out with enrollment and getting special needs services,” she said. “It’s important that we have the shelter-based daily support who can help families navigate what services are available and get them in place.”

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