New York City schools will close until at least April 20 due to the coronavirus outbreak, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday afternoon.
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QUICK FACTS: NYC SCHOOLS TO CLOSE
- New York City schools will be closed starting Monday morning.
- The city will attempt to reopen schools after the spring break, on April 20.
- Students will instead engage in remote learning starting on March 23.
SCHOOLS TO BE CLOSED STARTING MONDAY
The announcement came after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said schools will close, and ordered New York City to develop a plan for child care and providing food for students.
Calling it a decision that gives him great pain, de Blasio says public schools will be closed starting Monday morning and remote learning will begin March 23.
The city will provide physical locations across the five boroughs for childcare for crucial public workers, like first responders and transit workers.
Schools will be open this week for students to pick up meals, and for staff to receive training on how to teach students remotely. Students will not be allowed to eat their meals in school buildings.
The mayor said the city is working to provide computers and internet access to every student for remote learning. Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza estimated about 300,000 students need devices for remote learning. Carranza says the city will move to get them those devices, and prioritize students in temporary housing.
“We’re not lowering our expectations; we’re just changing our delivery method,” Carranza said.
It’s unclear if the city will be able to reopen schools April 20. At a press briefing Saturday, New York City Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said the city's "best estimate" for the end of the coronavirus crisis at this time is "some time in September."
In the past, some schools have closed temporarily, such as for storms, but potential months-long school closures would be unprecedented.
On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who defended not closing schools at that point, warned if schools do close they may not reopen for the rest of the year:
De Blasio had expressed concerns about the closure of schools, in part, because he feared health care workers — whom the city needs to tackle the crisis directly — would stay home to take care of their kids if schools are closed. Having physical locations for child care for such workers is an attempt to address that possibility.
The health care workers union, 1199 SEIU, initially opposed closures, saying its members depend on city schools, but Sunday afternoon, George Gresham, the president of 1199, called on the mayor to close schools and said the union was in talks to provide child care through school resources centers.
“I am confident that a plan will be reached to ensure that these children receive the care they need while their parents work. I also encourage the state and city to look into allocating additional funding for childcare for the children of healthcare workers and other essential employees,” Gresham said in a statement.
The closing of schools followed immense pressure from parents, teachers, and unions.
Michael Mulgrew, the president of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), sent an email to the parents of public school students, urging them to call 311 and push for the mayor to close the school system.
"The mayor is recklessly putting the health of our students, their families, and school staff in jeopardy by refusing to close public schools," Mulgrew said in the letter.
Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee urged borough parents to keep their children at home this week.
"I strongly urge all Queens families, in no uncertain terms, to keep all children home away from school this week,” Lee said Sunday.
And a call for a sick-out — for teachers to stay home Monday in protest — was growing among teachers.
Attendance plummeted at schools last week. Teachers say it’s difficult to do much teaching — one reported having between 8 and 12 students in each class on Friday.
FURTHER CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE