NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The New York City Council grilled the Deparment of Education and health leaders for hours about schools reopening.

This comes after new data shows racial disparities in attendance during online learning.

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As CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reports, there’s no question these are unprecedented times. Providing both in-person and online learning in New York City’s public schools is an experiment that some city leaders, school officials and families are losing faith in.

Schools: The New Normal

“The chaos and dysfunction that surrounded education system is hard to watch and heartbreaking,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

The City Council subpoenaed the Department of Education for data.

In the spring, schools where at least half of the student population was Black and Hispanic were nearly eight times more likely to report low student engagement, highlighting disparities with online learning.

Part of the reason is a lack of access to technology. Some 77,000 devices are still needed for students and staff. Due to a backlog, orders take at least a month to arrive.

“The fact that thousands of our kids, particularly from underresourced communities still don’t have a device is unacceptable and shameful. And I want to lay fault squarely on the mayor,” said New York City Council Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger.

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It comes as 52% of students are enrolled in online-only instruction, up from about 30% in August. But the chancellor says the shift could mean hybrid students have more days of in-person instruction.

“Schools are starting the process now of reconfiguring their classes and reallocating their teachers,” said Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza. “And the staffing shortage isn’t as great as what it was when we’re planning for fewer students to be remote.”

There’s still a teacher shortage, but it’s unclear by how much.

After four hours of questioning, the answers didn’t always inspire more confidence, Cline-Thomas reported.

Out of thousands of COVID tests done on students and staff, only a handful have been positive, at a rate that’s less than 1%.

The Department of Education did not communicate to parents that testing is mandatory for in-school instruction. If you refuse, students will have to attend class completely online.

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