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Low attendance seen in many reopened NYC schools: data

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While Mayor de Blasio trumpets his school reopening as a major triumph, the number of students showing up in buildings each day still totals less than 15 percent of all kids in the system, attendance data obtained by The Post show.

Last week, 488 high schools joined elementary and middle schools now open for students in “blended learning” schedules, a mix of in-person and online classes.  

But only 14,312 high-school kids came into buildings on Tuesday — 5 percent of the 282,000 enrolled. Another 3,040 who were supposed to be in school skipped classes that day — an absentee rate of 17.5 percent, according to internal Department of Education records.

Overall, daily attendance in 1,619 open schools hit a weekly high of 129,982 students on Tuesday. Another 12,309 were no-shows Tuesday, according to DOE data posted internally that evening.

Students walk to Hillside Arts & Letters Academy in Jamaica, Queens on March 25, 2021.
Students walk to Hillside Arts & Letters Academy in Jamaica, Queens on March 25, 2021.
Stephen Yang for New York Post

That’s only 14.5 percent of the total DOE register, which has dropped to 890,828 students since last year, when more than a million kids were on the rolls, the records reveal.

Thousands of students have switched to charters, parochial and other private schools, or moved out of the city since the COVID-19 pandemic threw the DOE into turmoil.

Despite repeated requests, the DOE has not released attendance numbers.

Last week, some high schools seemed eerily vacant.

About 8 am Thursday morning, only a handful of teens trickled into the main entrance at Brooklyn Tech, a specialized high school with nearly 5,900 registered students. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio leaves the Bronx School for Law Government & Justice High School on March 22, 2021.
Mayor Bill de Blasio leaves the Bronx School for Law Government & Justice High School on March 22, 2021.
Matthew McDermott for NY Post

At Forest Hills HS in Queens, “It’s a ghost town. It’s depressing,” said social studies teacher Jordan Pincus. “There’s nobody in the hall, nobody walking around. There’s just nothing happening, no activity.”

Less than 50 of the registered 3,745 students came each day last week, records show.

Every kid in the building takes classes on laptops with their teachers working remotely. Pincus teaches all his 160 students remotely four days a week, and supervises classrooms in person once a week.

“We’re never teaching when we’re in the building.” Pincus said. “We’re just babysitting.”

Last week, Pincus supervised two classrooms. In one, only three of nine students on the roster came in. In the other, just one of eight students showed up.

Brooklyn Tech High School located at 29 Fort Greene Place in Fort Greene Brooklyn.
A student has their temperature checked at Brooklyn Tech High School on March 25, 2021.
A student has their temperature checked at Brooklyn Tech High School on March 25, 2021.
Paul Martinka for New York Post

One 9th-grader who attends in-person called it “disappointing” that “any random teacher” supervises the room. She has never asked the supervisor for help.

“If you can have teachers sit in a class, you have them teach in a class,” the 14-year -old told The Post.

Wearing a mask, she stays in the same classroom all day with three other students — each  taking different courses remotely. She doesn’t even know their names.

Still, she’s happy to walk to and from school, and learn on her laptop in a classroom instead of in her bedroom. “I just enjoy being anywhere else but home,” she said.

Hillside Arts & Letters Academy in Jamaica, Queens on March 25, 2021.
Hillside Arts & Letters Academy in Jamaica, Queens on March 25, 2021.
Stephen Yang for New York Post

Most instruction is live at nearby Queens Metropolitan HS, which serves about 1,100 kids in Forest Hills, Glendale and Middle Village. Two groups of about 165 students each take turns attending classes in person two days a week, and all kids can come once a week for tutoring, counseling and clubs.. 

“Metro” teachers instruct both in-person and remote students simultaneously — a practice their union has frowned upon.

“It’s the closest to normalcy I can get right now,” senior Yani Barrientos, 17, told The Post. “I get to see my friends and teachers, and have a little interaction.”

While in class, Yani still tunes into Zoom, so when she takes part in a discussion or asks a question, the remote students hear her, and she hears them.

 Yani Barriento is a senior at Queens Metropolitan High School.
Yani Barriento is a senior at Queens Metropolitan High School.
Photos provided

When asked at a press conference last week how many students citywide are getting live classroom instruction, Mayor de Blasio gave no answer. A DOE spokesman did not respond to the question.

The DOE has reported only attendance percentages, which can be misleading. 

For instance, Hillside Arts & Letters Academy, a Jamaica high school with 452 students, reported 100% attendance on Tuesday — which meant all five students enrolled in blended learning came in.

World Academy for Total Community Health HS in East New York, which has a register of 163 students, had the fewest students in blended learning that day. Of four kids counted in person, two were marked absent — a 50 percent attendance rate, the data show.

Overall, high schools showed the lowest in-school numbers.

Social Studies teacher Jordan Pincus outside Forest Hills High School.
Social Studies teacher Jordan Pincus outside Forest Hills High School.
Helayne Seidman for New York Post

On Tuesday, elementary schools, which reopened last December, tallied 69,515 students, with 4,302 absent. Middle schools, which reopened last month, reported 21,320 students in person, with 1,951 absent. K-8 schools counted 13,084 students in person, 1,037 absent.

DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer called the DOE data “extremely preliminary,” because some schools entered no attendance numbers by the day’s end.

On Tuesday, 459 of the 1,619 schools showed zero in-person attendance, including 78 that failed to enter any attendance data, the records show. 

“We’re proud of our citywide in-person average attendance rate of 91 percent this week,” Styer said, giving no numbers to back it up.

Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross Porter
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

The DOE has opened a new “opt-in window” until April 7 for parents of students at all levels to switch from fully-remote to blended learning through June.

De Blasio said Friday that at least 25,000 students had already signed up to return to classrooms up to five days a week, as the CDC lowered its recommended social distance among students and staff from 6 feet to 3 feet. .

“I think a lot of parents are going to want to come back,” the mayor said, but he added “there’ll be hundreds of thousands of kids who are not ready and their families are not ready until September.”

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FDA finds peeling paint, debris at US plant making J&J’s COVID vaccine

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A US plant that was making Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine must fix a long list of problems including peeling paint and unsanitary conditions and practices to resume operation, according to a highly critical report by the Food and Drug Administration.

Experts said addressing the issues raised in the scathing FDA inspection report could take months.

Neither J&J nor the FDA has said when they expect vaccine production to restart at the Baltimore plant owned by Emergent Biosolutions. Only two other plants are currently equipped to supply the world with the key drug substance for J&J’s vaccine.

“It may take many months to make these changes,” said Prashant Yadav, a global health care supply chain expert at the Center for Global Development. He described some of the issues raised by the FDA as “quite significant.”

No vaccine manufactured at the Emergent plant has been distributed for use in the United States. However, J&J said it will exercise its oversight authority to ensure that all of the FDA observations are addressed promptly and comprehensively.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was put on a pause in the US over a potential link to a blood clotting condition.
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The health care conglomerate has drawn scrutiny for months over its halting process to scale up production of a vaccine that is easier to handle and, by virtue of being a single shot, easier to use than other authorized vaccines.

Its use in the United States has been paused since last week as health officials study a possible link to a very rare but serious blood clot condition.

Emergent has been seeking regulatory authorization to make the J&J vaccine in the United States. It stopped production at the plant recently, saying the FDA had asked it to do so after an inspection.

J&J’s plant in Leiden, the Netherlands, is still producing doses for the world. It has another facility in India, which is currently curtailing exports of the shot as it struggles to vaccinate its own population.

Johnson & Johnson reiterated on Wednesday that it was working to establish a global supply chain in which 10 manufacturing sites would be involved in the production of its COVID-19 vaccine, in addition to the Leiden plant.

The company has a US government-brokered agreement with rival drugmaker Merck, which is preparing to make doses of J&J’s vaccine.

Failure to train personnel

The FDA in its final 12-page inspection report said it had reviewed security camera footage in addition to an in-person site visit to the Emergent plant.

It found a failure to train personnel to avoid cross-contamination of COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, which had also been produced at the site. The agency also cited staff carrying unsealed bags of medical waste in the facility, bringing it in contact with containers of material used in manufacturing.

The FDA reviewed security camera footage and visited the Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore.
Getty Images

Earlier this week, the House launched an investigation into whether Emergent used its relationship with a Trump administration official to get a vaccine manufacturing contract despite a record of not delivering on contracts.

Emergent said in a statement that it is working with the FDA and J&J to quickly resolve the issues outlined in the report.

Production of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is not yet authorized for use in the United States, was previously stopped at the Emergent plant after ingredients from that shot contaminated a batch of J&J vaccine, ruining millions of doses.

The FDA also noted that Emergent did not produce adequate reports showing that the vaccines it was producing met quality standards.

The inspection, carried out between April 12 and April 20, also found the building not of suitable size or design to facilitate cleaning, maintenance or proper operations.

J&J said it was redoubling its efforts to get authorization for the facility as quickly as possible.

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One dead after pair of fires breaks out in Manhattan

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One person was killed and several others were injured in a pair of Manhattan fires Wednesday morning, officials said.

The first blaze erupted in Midtown around 8:15 a.m. inside a DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse at 213 W. 34th St., where an escalator became fully engulfed in flames — sending smoke billowing into the first and second floor and the interconnected 40-story hotel building, fire officials said.

It was not immediately clear which hotel it was.

Five firefighters suffered minor injuries putting out the blaze.

“The fire went out, but we have a smoke condition that we’re trying to alleviate,” FDNY Battalion Chief John Porretto said at the scene. “Units are going to remain on scene until all the smoke alleviates.”

The fire marshal will determine the causes of the fire.

A second blaze broke out 15 minutes later on the Upper East Side at 1576 2nd Ave., officials said.

A three-alarm fire at 213 W. 34th Street in Manhattan that left one dead
A three-alarm fire at 213 W. 34th St. in Manhattan left one dead.
NYFD

One man died in the fire and a second man was in serious condition at Lenox Hill Hospital, police said.

A firefighter suffered minor injuries battling the blaze and was taken to Cornell Hospital, fire officials said.

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NYC school leaders react to Derek Chauvin guilty verdict

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The leaders of the city’s public schools and largest charter network both weighed in on the Derek Chauvin verdict with passionate statements about how there is still a long way to go to reach systemic equality.

Department of Education Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter issued a personal commentary Tuesday night after the murder conviction of former Minnesota cop Chauvin.

“I felt pain and rage, deep in my bones,” she said of her initial reaction to George Floyd’s death. “It wasn’t a new feeling. I have felt that many times in my life, as a Black woman, sister, daughter, and mother to Black children—and as an educator who has served children of color in this city for more than 20 years.”

Ross-Porter said the Department of Education would be issuing guidance for teachers and families to help them process the verdict.

Eva Moskowitz with two students, the CEO and Founder of the Success Academy
Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz issued a statement on the Derek Chauvin verdict.
Brigitte Stelzer

“For our Black and brown children to know that they matter, the accountability this verdict represents is so important,” she stated. “In a world that too often tells them otherwise, accountability in this moment tells the Black and brown children in our schools that their lives matter, and lifts up the importance of their futures.”

Several teachers told The Post on Wednesday morning that they planned to broach the topic with their students to allow them to discuss Floyd’s death and Chauvin’s conviction.

Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter said the Department of Education would issue guidance to help teachers and families process the verdict.
Schools Chancellor Meisha Ross-Porter said the Department of Education would issue guidance to help teachers and families process the verdict.
Mark Lennihan/AP

“Because while the individual who took George Floyd’s life will be held accountable, we recognize that systemic racism, and the violence it fuels, is still creating tragedy and inequality across our country every single day,” Ross-Porter said. “We are all part of the work to undo this harm and reach true justice.”

Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, who oversees the city’s largest charter school network, also issued a statement.

People react after the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis.
People react after the verdict was read in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis.
Scott Olson/Getty Images

“We are grateful that justice has been served and that the judicial process has worked as intended,” she wrote. “We recognize, however, that this verdict does not resolve the systemic inequities that led to Floyd’s death; nor does it heal the anguish we feel witnessing our fellow citizens die at the hands of the public servants tasked with protecting us.”

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