By: Jared Evan
After grappling with the decision whether or not to close NYC public schools, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced on Sunday afternoon that public schools will close Monday and will not reopen until, at the earliest, April 20, PIX11 reported.
The mayor was under strong pressure from the UFT, and several other officials including Governor Cuomo.
New York City first needs to have “a plan in place in the next 24 hours for childcare for essential workers and a plan to make sure kids will continue to get the meals they need,” Gov Andrew Cuomo said. “This action is necessary to reduce density and mitigate the spread of #COVID19,” he tweeted.
Remote learning will begin on March 23, he said. The announcement came after de Blasio said he intended to keep schools open, listing schools as one of three things he wants to “preserve at all costs.” De Blasio also included mass transit and the health care system, PIX11 reported.
“To the parents and guardians of our public-school students, Because of his irresponsible decision to keep the public schools open, Mayor Bill de Blasio can no longer assure the health and safety of our students and school communities. The mayor is recklessly putting the health of our students, their families and school staff in jeopardy by refusing to close public schools. Call 311 to demand the mayor close schools now, The health and safety of our school community — and indeed the entire city — hangs in the balance”, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew wrote blasting the mayor over not deciding to shut down NYC public schools earlier in the day.
As NYC grappled with this decision and as the mayor took heat from the powerful UFT, Newsday has reported Long Island has decided to shut down all public schools as of Monday March 16th.
Mayor de Blasio appeared earlier on CNN Sunday morning admitting they did not actually have a backup plan in the event the NYC schools are closed.
“A variety of contingencies are being set up. They are far from perfect,” de Blasio said on CNN Sunday morning after a growing number of teachers, local elected officials and parents called for the closure, the NY Post reported.
“The difference between a functioning school system for over 1 million kids versus creating alternative centers for feeding or for the kids of health care workers, that kind of thing, if we got to that point we would improvise anything and everything,” de Blasio said.
“But it will not be by any means as good by definition as what we do every day when we have a functioning school system. But those contingencies are being built as we speak,” he said.
“My blunt fear is if the schools shut down, they will be done for the year, done for the school year maybe even for the calendar year. So, I’m very reticent to shut down schools,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio’s biggest concerns were for the poor kids who get their meals at schools, health care providers and first responders need a place to send their children, and unsupervised teens creating safety issues. From many recent stories such as the murder of Tessa Majors, some inner-city teenagers can be walking terrors.
As far as a total city lockdown, de Blasio is still not ready to take this drastic measure.
“Every option is on the table in a crisis,” de Blasio said Sunday morning on CNN. “We’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. He called on the federal government to have more of a roll. Many Democrats have consistently accused the Trump administration of not doing enough.
“We need the federal government to take over the supply chain right now,” he said.
“Right now we have to make sure the places in this country that need more ventilators, surgical masks, they need hand sanitizers, that that is a federalized dynamic where those factories that produce those goods are put on 24/7 shifts,” de Blasio said
The NY Times reported several city officials are angered the city is not placing enough restrictions on NYC fast enough.
The NY Times stated that officials: “pointed out that bars and restaurants on Saturday night in many parts of the city were still relatively crowded, elevating the risk that the coronavirus would continue to spread rapidly”
City Council members, as well as Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, have begun calling on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio to order the closure of restaurants and bars.
“All nonessential services must be closed, including bars and restaurants,” Corey Johnson, the Council speaker, said in a statement. “We should keep essentials like grocery stores, bodegas, pharmacies, and banks open. And restaurants that can make deliveries should be able to stay open to provide delivery service for New Yorkers.”
NYC Comptroller Stringer in a panicked fury tweeted: “The way to get out of crisis is to act logically and strategically. Logic says we need universal testing but that’s sadly not happening. Strategy says we need more aggressive social distancing. That is why today, out of an abundance of caution, I am calling for a city shutdown.”
The Governor is still reluctant to call for mandatory shutdowns of the city and instead urged private business to encourage employees to work from home. Cuomo had been leaning towards closure of NYC public schools all along.
Meanwhile Sunday morning acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee urged parents to keep their kids home from school as “the fast-developing” coronavirus sweeps through the Big Apple.
“I strongly urge all Queens families, in no uncertain terms, to keep all children home away from school this week,” Lee said in a statement, reported on by the NY Post.
With all this pressure on his back, from the UFT and fellow politicians, de Blasio finally made the decision to shut down public schools. The upcoming days will tell whether or not de Blasio follows Stringer and other’s advice to shut down almost everything else in the city as Coronavirus fears spiral out of control.