NYC schools chief pleads with parents to get kids to class



Come back to school — please!

The city Department of Education has been sending out robocalls to plead with parents to get their kids to class amid apparent ongoing attendance issues.

The roughly 40-second recording — voiced by Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter — has so far been sent to thousands of city families in an effort to fill classrooms.

“Hello, this is schools Chancellor Meisha Porter,” the recording says. “We are so excited to welcome your child back to school. Our schools are safe and supportive environments, and the classroom is a better place for your child this year.”

In making her case, Porter argues that kids are better off in class as opposed to wherever else they are spending their days.

“More time in school means your child will get the social, emotional and academic support they need to thrive, learn and be happy,” she said. 

Melissa Moy, a teacher at Yung Wing School P.S. 124, goes over a lesson with in-person summer program students on a monitor on July 22, 2021 in New York City.
The robocall from Porter stated that the schools are “safe and supportive” environments for kids.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Porter adds that if some kids are having problems finding transportation to school, the DOE can assist.

“We also know getting to school isn’t always easy,” she said. “We are here to support you. Please contact your school or call 311 to get connected to what you need for your child to attend school and succeed.”

The DOE has yet to reveal this year’s enrollment or say exactly how many kids are in school each day, instead offering a daily percentage.

On Thursday, the agency said 88 percent of kids were in class — several percentage points lower than in a comparable pre-pandemic period.

The DOE said robocalls are a routine element of outreach — although one involving attendance is not apparently the norm. Every parent was slated to receive Porter’s message this year, the department said.

“We’re proud of our work to reach every student every day,” said DOE rep Sarah Casasnovas. “We’ve already seen strong attendance this school year, and as always, are doing the important work of ensuring our families have a smooth transition back to school.”

Daily absentee estimates have ranged from 140,000 to 180,000 kids in the school system, which has about 1.1 million enrolled.

Teachers union chief Michael Mulgrew pressed city officials to intensify outreach to chronically absent kids during a city council meeting earlier this month.

New York City Schools Bronx Executive Superintendent Meisha Ross Porter is shown this still image, from New York Mayor Bill de Blasio's media availability, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021.
Porter said it will be better for kids to be in school than elsewhere.
New York City Office of the Mayor via AP
In this Aug. 17, 2021 file photo, students write and draw positive affirmations on poster board at P.S. 5 Port Morris, an elementary school in The Bronx borough of New York. New York City will phase out its program for gifted and talented students that critics say favors whites and Asian American students, while enrolling disproportionately few Black and Latino children, in the nation's largest and arguably most segregated school system.
DOE representative Sarah Casasnovas said the city is still happy with early school attendance figures.
Brittainy Newman, File/AP

The DOE has pledged to provide enrollment and attendance data before the end of this month.

Observers attribute this year’s elevated absentee rate to several possible factors — including ongoing pandemic-related health fears and the habituation of some kids to absenteeism during prolonged COVID-19 school closures.


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