Public schools in New York City will temporarily close, Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza wrote in an email to parents on Wednesday following rising rates of coronavirus infection in the city.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has repeatedly said the city will close public schools if the seven-day average coronavirus positivity rate reaches three percent. He announced that the city had reached this milestone Wednesday and confirmed schools would close.
New York has met the 7-day average positivity test cutoff of 3%. Unfortunately, this means that public school buildings will be closed from tomorrow, Thursday, November 19, as a precaution.
We must fight the second wave of COVID-19.
– Major Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 18, 2020
Carranza said on Wednesday that the coronavirus positivity rate in public schools was only 0.19%.
Blasio’s administration has set the city-wide rate of three percent as a benchmark in negotiations with the New York Teachers Union to reopen schools in the city. Union leader Michael Mulgrew defended the benchmark as “an appropriate number” in an interview on Friday New York Times. At a press conference Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that “in my opinion” de Blasio established the three percent threshold “in collaboration with the parents” of public school students.
The move will leave around 300,000 students who have taken advantage of hybrid in-person and virtual classes without the ability to physically go to class.
Public schools doesn’t seem to drive recent high infection rates. Currently, the coronavirus epidemics in New York are concentrated in Staten Island, the Bronx and parts of Queens and Brooklyn.
The closure represents a significant setback for de Blasio. New York’s public schools serve over a million students, the largest district in the United States
Some parents had hoped the city would revise its school closure threshold, or that Governor Andrew Cuomo could step in to reverse a closure. However, when asked on Wednesday whether the state could keep schools open in the city, Cuomo categorically ruled out the option during a difficult exchange with a reporter:
Governor Cuomo just had a nervous breakdown when a reporter simply asked a question about whether or not schools would open in New York tomorrow.
He literally started yelling at the reporter. pic.twitter.com/NBem5zpnK0
– Caleb Hull (@CalebJHull) November 18, 2020
“You are confused,” Cuomo told the the Wall Street newspaperJimmy Vielkind when asked to clarify the state’s rule on school closures.
“I’m confused, and I think the parents are still confused,” Vielkind replied.
“No, they’re not confused, you’re confused,” Cuomo said. “Read the law and you will not be confused.”