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School was on, but half of students took a snow day

More than half of New York City’s public school students didn’t come to school today after Chancellor Carmen Fariña decided to keep schools open after a snowstorm.

As the snow stopped falling, Fariña announced at 11 p.m. Tuesday that schools would be open on their regular schedule today. But warning of difficult travel conditions, she warned that “families should exercise their own judgment when taking their children to school.”

Most roads were plowed by the time buses started rolling, and the Department of Education publicized a special transportation hotline for families of students with disabilities. But many families appear to have taken Fariña’s advice and ruled in favor of a snow day.

With a foot of snow on the ground in some parts of the city and temperatures in the single digits, most students stayed home, according to the department’s preliminary attendance figures. The figures show that only about 47 percent of students came to class today.

The numbers correspond to what teachers reported on Twitter and elsewhere. “Final call, an hour into the day: 26 staff absent, two APs absent, 6 teachers late, my class has 12 out of 25 students in it,” teacher Brent Nycz tweeted this morning. A few minutes later, he updated the tally: one more of his students had arrived.

A kindergarten teacher quickly responded to him, saying, “Yeah if I had gone it today guarantee I would’ve had like 10 kids, no joke!”

That number was probably a little low, given that kindergarten classes have well over 20 students on average and elementary schools had the highest attendance today. But it wasn’t too far off.

Despite the inclement weather, some schools posted near-perfect attendance. They mostly included selective schools and neighborhood schools where students have short commutes. On the other hand, in almost a hundred schools — mostly high schools, which students often have to travel long distances to attend — less than a quarter of students made it today.

For families that are already fretting over the role attendance plays in middle and high school admissions, the choice to stay home today was especially fraught.

“I have a child in fourth grade and according to the so-called middle school choice formula I’m now putting my child’s chances of getting a good choice next year at risk,” a Brooklyn father told Chalkbeat. “That being said, I have kept my three children home.”