The nation’s largest school system will not reopen its doors to students this academic year, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Saturday.
But a few hours later, New York Mayor Gov. Andrew Cuomo threw major confusion into the situation. He contradicted the mayor’s announcement saying “there’s been no decision on schools.”
He called de Blasio’s decision to keep school buildings in the city closed for the remainder of the year “an opinion.” The governor said schools would not reopen anywhere in the greater New York City area without coordination with public school systems outside the city, such as Westchester and Suffolk counties, as well as nearby districts in Connecticut and New Jersey.
The mayor’s office governs the city’s school system.
De Blasio said shutting down schools for the remainder of 2019-20 year was “not an easy decision,” but was a crucial and necessary step in containing the spread of the coronavirus and saving lives in hard-hit New York.
The city’s public schools—which serve more than 1 million students—will continue with remote learning through the summer, Chancellor Richard Carranza said.
“Optimistically, we want to get students together and have them with their teachers as soon as humanly possible,” Carranza said at a Saturday morning briefing. “Realistically, we are going to be in a remote learning phase through the summer.”
New York City joins at least 21 other states and three U.S. territories that have also ordered or recommended that school buildings remain shut down for the remainder of the academic year.
De Blasio said that as the weeks have passed since the school system shut down and began distance learning, access to learning and participation by students has gotten better.
“What we’ve asked from our educators is almost like a military situation,” he said. “We asked the teachers to mobilize in a week’s time. This will get better each week. With every passing week, more devices are in the hands of kids and educators will come up with new and better ways to engage them and keep track of what they are doing.”
Carranza said schools are paying close attention to the students who have not yet been in contact with teachers. He said a survey of families has helped accelerate the distribution of devices and printed learning packets to students.
He said the district had mailed over 40,000 packets to families who don’t yet have devices and that some 175,000 school devices have been provided to students. He said that about 70,000 WiFi-equipped iPads had been shipped to students.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.