City Councilmember proposes using summer school system amid coronavirus fears

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Even though it is a bit colder than yesterdayÕs blamy 60s, plenty of people were out enjoying the weather, including these children playing tag in City Hall Park this afternoon. (Photo by Todd Maisel)

He’s got a plan for that. 

The City Council’s education committee chair is suggesting that the city take on a summer school model in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the city.  

Under the model, public students that need to be at school for whatever reason, including access to food, health care, laundry needs or because their parents simply can not afford childcare, would be sent to a few school sites in each borough. Advocates say that about 70% of New York City public school students rely on free or reduced-price lunch programs at schools and 114,000 homeless students rely on open schools for these services. 

Closing schools is complicated. In order to make up for a possibly messy transition, Councilmember Treyger tweeted that as part of his proposed limited shutdown approach, students, parents and faculty should not be penalized for tardiness or attendance and that New York state should suspend all state assessments to allow families “to prioritize safety and learning instead of exams” during the public health emergency. In his lengthy Twitter thread, the council member also called on the Department of Education to work with every school to develop plans for at-home instruction to keep every student up to date with learning expectations. 

The tweet came out hours before the city decided to close two Bronx co-located public schools, the Laboratory School of Finance and Technology and South Bronx Preparatory: A College Board School, after a “self-confirmed” positive COVID-19 case. Freddi Goldstein, the mayor’s spokesperson, clarified the meaning of “self-confirmed” on Twitter explaining that the student’s parents notified the school that their child tested positive for the illness contracted from the coronavirus. Both schools were shut down for the next 24-hours while the city’s health department disinfects the building and traces all of the student’s recent contacts to arrange for testing. The Bronx schools mark the first coronavirus-related public school closure in the city. 

“We don’t make this decision lightly, and we know the disruption and anxiety this means for students, faculty and parents,” said Mayor de Blasio in a statement. “We are taking every precaution to keep people safe, and we will keep everyone informed as we learn more through the day.” 

Although the CDC stated that children who contract COVID-19, the illness contracted from the coronavirus, only show mild symptoms and very rarely experience complications, worried parents have repeatedly called for school closures on social media and via multiple online petitions. Nearly 200,000 people signed one online petition calling for the city’s public schools to be closed. The petition states that parents and families are not just concerned about students picking up the virus in classrooms but also on the subway or out and about in the city as they make their way to schools. 

The preliminary findings of new study, from some U.S. government scientists suggest that the virus could linger in the air for up to three hours and live on plastic and some metal surfaces for two to three days. The study does not prove that anyone has been able to contract the virus via air by touching a surface a once contaminated surface.

Earlier this week, Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor said that closing NYC public schools would be used as a “last resort” to combat the spread of coronavirus. The  reiterated his reluctance to call for all schools to be closed during an interview on CNN Thursday morning. 

“We do not want to get into that slippery slope, you know the dominos falling, where school systems start to close,” said de Blasio. “I think that’s very dangerous.”