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At Some Miami-Dade Schools, More Than A Quarter Of Students Aren’t Logging On

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho
Sebastian Ballestas
Miami Herald
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho announces coronavirus school closures during a press conference at the district's headquarters in downtown Miami on March 13.

More than a quarter of students enrolled at 40 public schools in Miami-Dade County did not log on for virtual education at least one day last week, as the district began taking online attendance for the first time during COVID-19 closures.

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Eight schools had attendance rates of under 75% each day last week, according to data obtained by WLRN through a public records request. The schools with the lowest attendance rates are located in some of the county’s poorest neighborhoods, raising questions about whether families have the resources and support they need for children to continue learning as the pandemic has shuttered campuses and brought normal life to a standstill.

At Melrose Elementary School in Allapattah, attendance never broke 60% last week. The same was true for Poinciana Park Elementary School in Liberty City on three of the four days during which online instruction was held.

(Students did not take classes on April 10, which was a teacher planning day and also the Good Friday religious holiday.)

The district’s overall average attendance last week was about 89%, more than 5 percentage points lower than the first week of school in April 2019, when schools were operating normally.

Still, attendance numbers climbed each day last week in Miami-Dade, increasing from 88% overall on April 6 to 90.7% on April 9.

The overall attendance rate jumped to 91.3% on Monday of this week, which administrators described in a news release as "a high rate of student attendance, despite this being the launch of an unprecedented remote teaching and learning model."

The district has distributed tens of thousands of laptops, tablets, smartphones and WiFi hotspots to families and disseminated information about how to access free or low-cost internet. Administrators are also operating helplines to answer questions about virtual learning.

South Florida’s other large school districts — Broward and Palm Beach counties — have not yet fulfilled WLRN’s public records requests for district-wide and school-by-school attendance data. Districts are employing different strategies for assessing students’ participation.

In the Florida Keys, the overall average attendance rate was 92% last week.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Jessica Bakeman is Director of Enterprise Journalism at WLRN News, and she is the former senior news editor and education reporter. Her 2021 project "Class of COVID-19" won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.
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