Mayor Bill de Blasio has made it official: All public schools are closed Monday, and they won't open again until — at the earliest — April 20.
The announcement came just a couple hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced public schools in Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties were closing beginning Monday, and that New York City public school had 24 hours to develop an action plan that would allow those schools to shutter this week.
"I am very concerned that we are seeing a rapid spread of this disease, and it is time that we take more dramatic measures," de Blasio said in a Sunday evening press conference. "And will tell you that the issue that has been on everyone's minds is our public schools."
The decision come sin light of ongoing efforts at both the city and state level to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
de Blasio said that he expects schools to open after the spring holiday break on Monday, April 20, but warned that this would be a "first attempt."
"I have to be honest in that we are dealing with a lot of unknowns, and a lot of challenges, and we understand how difficult it will be to achieve that goal," the mayor said. "I have been very honest about the fact that there is a real possibliity that by closing our schools now, we may not have the opportunity to reopen them in this full school year. We may actually have to go for teh whole school year, which is just extraordinarily painful for our kids, for our parents, and for our educators."
In an address to media earlier, Cuomo expressed similar sentiments, but also talked about some of the collateral damage that would come from parents who are essential for their jobs in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, but may have to choose between going to work, or staying home with their kids.
"Our goal is to slow the spread of the virus to a rate that the health care system can manage, and one of the ways to do that is to reduce density," Cuomo said, in a release. "Closing the schools is a good idea, but you have to anticipate and correct any unintended consequences — we have to ensure children who rely on free school meals continue to get them, and that there's adequate child care, especially for health care workers and first responders who are parents of young children.
"We will close these schools, but it needs to be done with these contingencies in mind so that children are not harmed, and our hospitals aren't understaffed — otherwise, we cut off our nose to spite our face."
With nearly all private schools and universities closed — including SUNY and CUNY schools — some critics have targeted Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio over why public schools have remained open.
During his Sunday daily press conference talking about the coronavirus, Cuomo made it clear schools could only close as long as doing so didn't put the city in a worst position than it already is when it comes to the virus.
"Close the schools? It's not that easy. It's not that simple," Cuomo said. "For many families, the school is child care. If you close the schools and the children are at home, a large percentage of the work force may say, 'I have to stay home and take care of my children.'
"There are school districts that are in wealthier parts of the state where the family is in that position, where one parent stays home or where they can hire a caregiver to stay at home. But then there's everybody else."
Cuomo also addressed some of the basic needs many children get from public schools, especially in New York City.
"For many children, the breakfast and the lunch are the two main meals that they get, and they get that the school," the governor said. "How do you distribute food for al these children who are now not in school? So these are very real concerns."
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