NEW York City public schools will shut down temporarily starting Thursday because of surging coronavirus cases, top city officials revealed Wednesday.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said the closure would be “temporary” in an email to staffers Wednesday afternoon, but did not signal when schools would reopen.
Mayor de Blasio confirmed the closures on Twitter minutes later after delaying his morning press briefing by at least five hours and counting.
“New York City has reached the 3% testing positivity 7-day average threshold,” he wrote. “Unfortunately, this means public school buildings will be closed as of tomorrow, Thursday Nov. 19, out an abundance of caution. We must fight back the second wave of COVID-19.”
The percentage of new COVID-19 cases has hovered near the 3% weekly average threshold the city uses to close schools for more than a week now, forcing parents to wait with bated breath for days for any indication that would force them into having to adjust their childcare arrangements to the new reality.
Meelai Chow, a teacher at Yung Wing School P.S. 124 teaches students attending class in person on Oct. 1, in New York City. (Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
Gov. Cuomo and others have suggested that de Blasio could change the threshold used to close schools, but such a shift would almost inevitably lead to push back from the United Federation of Teachers, the union that represents most educators in the city.
During a combative press conference in Albany, Gov. Cuomo suggested that schools would close regardless if the state designates the city as an “orange zone” micro-cluster, a move that would also shutter gyms and bring an end to indoor dining.
“(The law) always said that, if, by the state’s numbers, you hit 3%, the schools close,” Cuomo said in reference to the state’s micro-cluster strategy, which has primarily targeted much smaller geographic areas.
The governor snapped at reporters who asked about the confusion caused by a difference in state and city COVID-19 numbers and how that impacts whether classrooms would remain open.
Per the state strategy, schools within an “orange zone” could reopen if they drastically increase coronavirus testing, but Cuomo admitted that would be a huge lift for the city.
“Any school district in a microcluster, the schools can remain open in an orange zone but they have to do additional testing,” he said.
Front page of the New York Daily News on November 14, 2020: COVID spike moves N.Y. schools, courts closer to shutting down – once again.
De Blasio was scheduled to hold a press conference at 10 a.m. Wednesday, but at 2:45 p.m. it still had not begun.
De Blasio has stuck to his guns on the rule that all city schools will close if citywide test positivity rate reaches 3% over a seven-day average in order to “keep faith” with educators and families. But he’s suggested in recent days that the city could adopt a new standard moving forward.
Hizzoner said he would work with the Education Department and educator unions “to figure out what’s the quickest way back and the best standards for that quick turnaround.”
A closure would affect roughly 300,000 students who have been attending some in-person school under the hybrid reopening plan, including many with disabilities who depend on in-person supports and therapy.