Despite End-of-Year Confusion, Attendance Was on Par With Last Year

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The New York City public school year ended Wednesday with a sizable portion of students making a last-minute showing to collect report cards, help dismantle classrooms and bid a final farewell to teachers.

According to Education Department officials, attendance was at 79.4 percent, a mere .2 percentage points lower than the rate for the last day of school in 2011 -- despite the fact that many schools had canceled classes on Monday and Tuesday because the city had clocked none of its allotted snow days this year.

The attendance rates for Monday and Tuesday were less clear because only some schools recorded it. But of those that did, 64.8 percent of students came to school Monday and 68.7 percent came Tuesday. Last year, when school ended on a Tuesday, 68.8 percent of students attended the Monday before.

Late last month, officials granted schools the right to cancel classes on the two days before the last one because the city, which always allows for a few closing days for snow, ice and other emergencies, had experienced a relatively calm winter. No days had been used up.

Some schools chose to take the city up on the offer, announcing to parents via notes sent home in backpacks and signs posted around their schools that those days were no longer mandatory. At those schools, the days were used for teachers to bone up on special education initiatives and curriculum changes that will begin citywide in the fall.

As for the city, the canceled days did not affect state funding. And principals said despite the fact that student attendance played a crucial role in their annual budget, attendance during those days off did not affect them because students had come for the required number of school days.

On Wednesday, as a group of first-grade parents waited outside Public School 153 Adam Clayton Powell, a pre-K-through-fifth-grade school on Amsterdam Avenue, many with small gifts or packaged flowers for teachers, they talked about how they decided whether or not to send their children the first two days of the week, which had been voluntary.

Dimitra Liveris, the great-grandmother of a rising second grader at the school, said she had allowed the 7-year-old to stay home to unwind after a long school year. “She read and wrote,” Ms. Liveris said. “And she played.”

Others, echoing a finding around the city, said they had sent their children the last two days because they were confused about whether or not the school was recording it. Attendance can play a crucial role in middle-school applications, often becoming the deciding factor between two equally eligible candidates.

And still other parents said they sent their children because that’s what they had planned to do before the city announced the changes.

“It was convenient,” said Juan Jackson, the father of a P.S. 153 student. “And we didn’t have plans for day care.”

For Alyson Browner, whose son finished up first grade Wednesday, the last days of school were jam packed with crucial, albeit low-key moments of reflection. And she didn’t want him to miss them.

“He made it every day,” Ms. Brower said. “I knew school was open. And I felt he needed to have some time to be with his teacher and the other students, to say goodbye and to collect phone numbers. That time gives closure.”