Just over half of New York City students made it to school Friday, when Mayor Bill de Blasio reopened schools following a so-called “bomb cyclone” winter storm that had blasted the city with snow and freezing winds the previous day.
After de Blasio declared a snow day Thursday, many New Yorkers called for another: A petition urging him to cancel school Friday garnered over 150,000 signatures.
Many educators predicted that large numbers of students would stay home if schools were reopened. On Friday, they were proved right: Attendance citywide was just over 53 percent, according to education department figures. (A department spokesperson pointed out that there have been five winter days with attendance between 45 and 70 percent since 2009.)
Some teachers took to social media on Friday to show off empty classrooms and auditoriums:
As of 8:00am out of 500 students, about 35 came in. Where is this a good idea? It makes no sense @UFT @UFT_D18 @UFTKaz @MindyRosier @NYCMayor #teaching #nosense #ItsSoCold #PublicSchoolProud pic.twitter.com/Ay0xZlKFUd— Amy Bernstein (@harrysmom9198) January 5, 2018
I tried my best today, but my best class had 40% attendance. 2 out of 30 9th period. Not much chance https://t.co/dxB6pKENok— Will Ehrenfeld (@WillEhrenfeld) January 5, 2018
Despite the criticism from some corners, de Blasio is hardly stingy when it comes to closing school: The five snow days he’s declared in his four years as mayor is as many as his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, called in 12 years.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña (who has faced her share of snow day heat) has argued in the past that schools should stay open whenever possible because many working parents cannot quickly arrange childcare and some students might not otherwise receive a hot meal. In her view, families who cannot safely or easily get their children to school can simply declare a personal snow day.
“Parents can make a decision about whether to send their kid to school or not,” Fariña said in 2014.
Jessica Martell said about half of her fourth-grade class at Central Park East II in Manhattan was absent Friday, including at least one student who was stranded in the Dominican Republic because of cancelled flights. But she said she was happy to be back in school.
“There’s a lot to get done,” she said.