Why parents keep sending their flu-ridden kids to school
They may not get into the city’s best public schools, but they’re gonna die trying.
Parents are so desperate to get their children into coveted public middle and high schools that they are sending them in sick — even with dangerous flu symptoms — because absences count when it comes to admissions, an advocacy group said Monday.
While city education officials publicly tell parents to keep their kids home, they allow many of the schools to set their own admissions policies — which can put much more weight on attendance than actual school performance, according to Community Education Council 2 in Manhattan.
“This has gone from unfair to irresponsible at this point,” CEC 2 Councilman Eric Goldberg told The Post as flu season in the city raged, killing at least four children in the past two weeks.
“They are sending two messages,’’ he said of Department of Education officials. “They should stop encouraging sick kids to come to school.”
At the Upper East Side’s popular Wagner Middle School, good attendance records by prospective students are given more weight than their science and social-studies grades in the admissions process.
The best attendance counts 10 times that of the subject scores.
“When I was trying to get her into this school, I was so scared of having her miss school,” Wagner parent Asia Romero said of her daughter, who is in sixth grade.
“She would have to have a fever and a swollen eye in order to miss school,” admitted Romero — a nurse.
“It’s a great school, and I loved it when I came to the open house. But they should be more flexible, at least during flu season,” Romero said. “I know attendance is important, but they should understand that this flu season has been horrible.”
Goldberg noted that the recent flu outbreak shows that absences should not be held against students when it comes to competitive middle- and high-school applications.
The CEC filed Freedom of Information Law requests to learn just how heavily a student’s attendance record would impact admissions involving schools in its large district.
The group focused on the district’s 24 middle schools. Eighteen of those schools are “screened” sites, meaning they can set their own criteria — and decree a hodgepodge of what garners what weight — for acceptance as per the DOE.
All but one of these schools took lateness and attendance into account when considering admissions, the CEC found.
At Wagner, the best attendance records make a huge difference.
At PS 126, the Manhattan Academy of Technologies, even one absence knocks a point off an applicant’s weighted score.
But Goldberg argued that 9- and 10-year-olds shouldn’t be held accountable for their attendance and lateness.
The categories tell the DOE more about their family or home environment than about the students themselves, he said.
The city’s notoriously unreliable public-transit system also can be an issue in getting kids to school on time, showing that there are many issues beyond the children’s actual control — “factors that don’t tell us anything about the potential of a student,’’ Goldberg said.
“Kids are having their educational opportunities impacted by the timeliness of subways and buses,” he said. “This is a citywide issue.”
And doctor’s notes don’t undo the damage, Goldberg said.
While a school’s internal tracking system distinguishes between different types of absences, such as those involving a medical excuse, screened middle and high schools are simply passed along a student’s overall number when it comes to applying, he said.
The CEC unsuccessfully tried to pass a resolution in December that opposed the attendance metric because low-income kids were more likely to miss school due to circumstances that were often beyond their control, according to Goldberg.
It plans to reintroduce a new resolution calling for the DOE to scrap the requirements based on current public-health concerns at their March meeting.
DOE spokesman Will Mantell told The Post, “We continue to work closely with District 2 families around improving the middle school admissions process, and we look forward to further conversations about this resolution.”
Additional reporting by Caroll Alvarado