SEPTA strike causes significant dip in Philly high school attendance

Philadelphia students as exit a subway concourse in Center City. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

Philadelphia students as exit a subway concourse in Center City. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY

On the first day of the SEPTA strike, only 61 percent of Philadelphia’s high school students attended classes, according to data just released by the school district.

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The figures show the strike has put a real dent in student attendance, but the effect has been concentrated at the high school level. Citywide high schools, which draw students from all neighborhoods, have been particularly hard hit, district officials said.

“Lower attendance numbers are concentrated in our citywide high schools,” said district spokesman Lee Whack.

Attendance fell from 88.93 percent on Halloween, the day before the strike, to 79.91 percent Tuesday. That drop reprsents about 12,000 students across Philadelphia.

District attendance on Halloween was already abnormally low. During the week before that, attendance never dipped below 91.4 percent.

Attendance figures rebounded significantly on the second day of the strike. On Wednesday, nearly 85 percent of students attended classes. That number is still lower than normal, however.

Schools have remained opened throughout the strike.

About 30,000 district students have transpasses to take public transportation to school.

“We understand the inconvenience this strike is causing students and families, but there is no substitute for children learning in the classroom and the vast majority of students are in classrooms,” said Whack.

“Lower attendance numbers are concentrated in our citywide high schools, but early data for [Wednesday] showed a 10 perecent increase in attendance in high schools,” he said. “We remain hopeful this interruption will end soon so students, families, teachers, administrators and staff can all get back to their regular schedules.”

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