New York City Public Schools to Close Thursday, Mayor Says
New York City will temporarily close its public schools and switch to fully remote learning for its students because of a rising number of Covid-19 cases in the city, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.
The announcement came as the share of people tested in the city who are positive for the virus rose to 3% over a seven-day average. The city set that rate as the threshold for stopping in-person instruction in the nation’s largest school district.
Fully remote learning for all students will begin Thursday and remain in effect at least through November, Mr. de Blasio said. The mayor didn’t say when in-person instruction would start again but said the city would set more rigorous benchmarks for reopening. The mayor had previously said school classrooms wouldn’t automatically reopen if the seven-day average positivity rate dips below 3%.
“We intend to come back and come back as quickly as possible,” he said at a press conference on Wednesday.
The closures follow a hectic and difficult chapter for city families. Public schools shut down abruptly in mid-March when the virus surged, and the city scrambled to create a remote-learning plan for the rest of the academic year.
New York City, which had about 1 million students last year, became one of the few big urban districts nationwide to open for in-person instruction this fall, but more than 541,000 students chose to attend only remotely, according to the most recent data available.
Many students who said they would come to school one to three days a week weren’t showing up on campus, however. The department said in late October that 280,000 students had attended in person at least once since schools reopened at the end of September.
While many students who chose the hybrid curriculum had in-person classes only one or two days a week, some parents relied on having a break when their children were on campus.
The school closure news disappointed many parents, who had been anxious for days over updates cautioning that a shutdown was imminent.
“I’m crying,” said Robin Lester Kenton, a marketing executive with a first-grader and third-grader in Brooklyn.
“我哭了，”罗宾·莱斯特·肯顿(Robin Lester Kenton)说。他是一名营销主管，在布鲁克林读一年级和三年级。
She said her first-grader suffered from remote days: he was above grade level in reading last March and now was behind. Further, while his in-person teacher called him a natural leader who thrives with classmates, his remote teacher said he acted bored and sleepy in virtual classes. Remote learning is “harmful to him,” she said.
Many parents pointed to the city’s own declarations that schools were safe, with masks and extra cleaning, as reason to keep them open.
By Department of Education data, the district’s testing program found a Covid-19 positivity rate of 0.19% out of more than 120,000 students and staff tested. “This has been a reassuring sign that our schools are safe, and we are grateful for the tireless work you do to ensure this is possible,” Chancellor Richard Carranza said in a letter to principals Wednesday.
When told of the city’s decision to close schools, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference on Wednesday that the 3% threshold had been established after dialogue with educators and parents.
“That was the agreement and the agreement should be honored,” the Democratic governor said.
Mr. Cuomo had previously said that schools have low transmission rates for the virus. He had also suggested that the city should make closure decisions based on positivity rates at individual schools.
The United Federation of Teachers had threatened to strike if its demands for cleaning, ventilation, random testing and other steps weren’t met. On Wednesday, union president Michael Mulgrew backed the closure decision, saying: “Now it’s the job of all New Yorkers to maintain social distance, wear masks and take all other steps to substantially lower the infection rate so school buildings can reopen.”
Kevin Froner, principal of Manhattan Hunter Science High School, said he had been expecting a shutdown, and only about 10 of his roughly 450 students were still coming to campus anyway, after a location change due to building ventilation problems. “Our focus right now is on high-quality remote instruction,” he said. “I didn’t want to miss a beat when we go remote.”
Daniel Katz, a Manhattan father of two children in middle school, said they typically had just one day a week in-person so the closure wouldn’t cause a major change. His bigger concern was that, by his kids’ reports, their Upper West Side classrooms relied on keeping windows open 8 inches for ventilation.
“The kids are keeping their coats and jackets on to be warm enough,” said Mr. Katz, a professor of education at Seton Hall University in New Jersey. “I have to ask, how is this sustainable as we move into winter?”
卡茨是新泽西州西顿霍尔大学(Seton Hall University)的教育学教授，他说：“孩子们穿着外套和夹克，以保暖。”“我不得不问，在我们进入冬季之际，这怎么能持续下去呢？”