Public schools will remain closed through the end of the school year, Mayor de Blasio announced Saturday morning – though in a stunning rebuke, Governor Cuomo said just two hours later that the decision was not his to make.
The city had originally set April 20 as a target date for students to return. In a news conference this morning, the Mayor said it would be unrealistic and a mistake to reopen schools and allow the coronavirus to have a resurgence.
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"Having to tell you that we cannot bring our schools back for the remainder of this school year is painful, but I also can also tell you it's the right thing to do. It clearly will help us save lives, because it will help us to guarantee that the strategies that have been working -- the shelter in place, the social distancing, all the focused strategies that are finally beginning to bear fruit -- they need the time to continue to be effective,” said de Blasio.
De Blasio said the decision was made clearer since distance learning has been working better every day. He said he will be working with the State to extend its waiver of the 180-day school calendar requirement.
But asked to weigh in on the decision at his own press briefing later in the morning, Cuomo suggested the Mayor was overstepping his authority.
“There has been no decision. That’s the Mayor’s opinion,” Cuomo said. “He didn’t close them, and he can’t open them.”
Cuomo said ultimate authority lies with the state, and that any decision on schools would be made on a regional basis, with New York City, Long Island and Westchester County all aligning to the same policy. But he also gave no indication he intended to re- open schools by the end of the academic year.
Mayor de Blasio also introduced a five-point plan Saturday to serve students and families while education continues to take place at home. It includes getting iPads to all students who still need them and developing a comprehensive plan to reopen schools in September.
De Blasio said 66,000 devices have been provided to students for remote learning. 240,000 more are set to be in students’ hands by the end of April.
The Mayor also said schools will have to focus on students' mental health in a new way in the fall, due to the emotional trauma the pandemic has inflicted on students and teachers.