Schools out — for the foreseeable future.
The New York City public-school system will be closed for in-person learning starting Thursday due to rising COVID-19 rates, Mayor de Blasio said — leaving many parents furious.
With the city’s average infection rate hitting 3 percent over the past seven days, in-building activity will be “temporarily” suspended, the mayor said.
All students in the nation’s largest school district will now learn remotely from home — and it’s not clear when they’ll get back to class.
“So many parents right now are saddened and frustrated their kids can’t go to school tomorrow,” de Blasio said Wednesday afternoon, after delaying a press conference on the issue for five hours.
“So many kids want to be in school. So many educators want to be there to greet them. But now we put ourselves to the work of overcoming this challenge.”
Parents expressed anger and frustration at the latest curveball from City Hall.
“Horrible. I’m a kindergarten mom, so it’s really hard for the little kids,” Diana Loffredo, 36, whose son, Liam, is in kindergarten at Brooklyn’s PS 127. “I know a lot of us aren’t too happy. We’ve been following the protocol. We’ve been doing the right thing. I just feel like we are being penalized. It’s not really fair.”
Shamsuddeen Aldubai, 41, who has two kids at the school also fumed.
“The kids want to be around their friends and at school,” he said. “They don’t want to stay at home. They want to go to school to get an education. Online school is not as much as they get at school.”
The order will impact the roughly 300,000 city students still currently enrolled in City Hall’s blended learning format that has kids alternate between home and classroom instruction.
Roughly 700,000 students are already on a fully remote schedule and do not go to their buildings.
The mayor’s commitment to the 3 percent kill switch has met resistance from critics who view it as an arbitrary and outdated indicator of a COVID-19 surge.
While he said he would defer to de Blasio on city school closures, Gov. Cuomo has argued that the number was established months ago and that more informative data has evolved since.
Sources said Wednesday that the United Federation of Teachers has been firm in maintaining the 3 percent threshold that was negotiated with the city.
Citing coronavirus safety concerns, vocal union factions lobbied hard against a school resumption in the weeks leading up to the partial reopening in late September.
“The city established the 3 percent infection rate threshold to make sure that schools did not become centers to spread the coronavirus,” UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a brief statement Wednesday. “Since the 3 percent rate has been reached, education will continue but all students will be learning remotely.”
De Blasio did not offer a timetable for a reopening or specify the circumstances that would enable it.
“To protect school communities we are going to have to put additional measures in place,” he said, when asked by reporters when kids could be back in class. “We’re talking with the state right now on what those should be.”
Many parents have also noted that City Hall had consistently touted the safety of in-person learning in recent weeks.
According to the Department of Education, random internal testing of students and staffers in city school buildings consistently yielded minimal infection rates hovering around 0.19 percent.
De Blasio has argued in recent days that adhering to the 3-percent cutoff signaled his seriousness about containing the virus.
Already dazed by whipsaw policy throughout the tattered academic year, some parents began formulating a protest at City Hall soon after the announcement was made.
The group cited “hard data collected since the start of school establishing that the safety measures implemented in city schools have made schools, as the mayor has said, ‘extraordinarily safe’ for both teachers and students.”
De Blasio said he regretted having to take the action Wednesday but was satisfied with the overall arc of his schooling policy given the challenges posed by the coronavirus.
“We came back from the worst of this disease,” de Blasio said. “Overcame that, became one of the safest places in the country, opened up the nation’s largest school system, made it extraordinarily safe. But we’re also living by those cautious conservative standards.”
Additional reporting by Carl Campanile, Nolan Hicks and Rachel Green