After continuous pressure from parents, teachers and lawmakers, the decision to shut down all public schools in New York City has been finalized.
Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced Sunday evening that, starting today, all public schools have been closed. The City currently plans to reopen schools on Apr. 20.
“For anyone who is wondering why this has been such a difficult decision, it’s because I know the full cost of shutting our schools, and I know the negative ramifications,” said de Blasio.
Earlier that day, de Blasio expressed his extreme hesitance to close public schools in an interview with CNN,
“I’m very reticent to shut down schools for a variety of reasons,” he said, “Not just because that’s where a lot of kids get their only good meals, where they get adult supervision, especially teenagers, who otherwise would be out on the streets.”
On the note about good meals, the mayor said that schools will be open for the remainder of the week for grab-and-go meals to students who are reliant on them.
De Blasio’s reluctance was met with significant pushback from New York’s lawmakers, however. On the same day, several Manhattan representatives, including U.S. Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-Washington Heights, Sugar Hill), Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens), Nydia Velázquez (D-LES, Brooklyn, Queens) and Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn) co-signed a statement urging him to close schools as soon as possible.
“With over 1.1 million children enrolled in New York City’s public schools, closing the schools is the most reliable method available to ensure the health and safety of New York children and families,” read the statement.
Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) said in a New York Times interview earlier Sunday that he, “believed all New York City schools to be closed, period,” and announced that Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk schools will close this week in an effort to limit the spread of novel coronavirus as well.
Ultimately, the heat from New York’s lawmakers trumped de Blasio’s reservations; the shutdown became official just a few hours after the Mayor’s CNN appearance.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew sent out a letter the same day condemning Mayor de Blasio’s original decision to keep schools open and demanded that he shut the schools immediately.
“The administration has made the right decision – closing the schools is a critical step to reduce the spread of the virus and to help preserve the health of our students, their families and our staff,” Mulgrew said of the recent decision.
Comptroller Scott Stringer (D) also jumped on the bandwagon via Twitter, revealing his support for a school-shut down.
“As Comptroller and as a public school parent, I am painfully aware of the consequences these actions will have: on families who depend on schools for critical services and on the livelihoods of New Yorkers,” said Stringer. “But the consequences of not acting will be even more devastating.”
He commended the resolution to shut public schools for the time-being, noting that NYC must turn their attention to the concerns of the school communities and those who are directly affected by the school shut-down.
Chaya Gurkov contributed to this story.