Gregorio Luperon High School serves newcomer students, most of whom come from the Dominican Republic.
It begins in early December. Students pop into the attendance office at Gregorio Luperon High School for Science and Mathematics brandishing plane tickets like doctor's notes. Then the absences start, weeks before the winter break begins. And then comes the rolling return of students, stretching to the waning days of January.
The annual ritual that takes place at Gregorio Luperon also plays out in other pockets of the city that, like Washington Heights, have many students from the Dominican Republic.
Extended mid-year absences are by no means limited to Dominican students: The New York Times reported this week about post-vacation enrollment flux at Chinatown schools. But educators and community organizations say the phenomenon is especially pronounced at schools with many families from the Dominican Republic — and that the impact can be significant.
About 15 Luperon students missed some amount of school this December and January because they were in the Dominican Republic, according to Luperon's attendance teacher, and two still hadn't returned last week.
"They want to see their families back home, especially if they haven't seen them in a long time," said Mireya De La Rosa, an assistant principal at Gregorio Luperon who immigrated from the Dominican Republic herself.