New York City schools closed until at least April 20

New York City has closed the nation’s largest school system, sending over 1.1 million children home in hopes of curbing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says that schools will be closed starting Monday until at least April 20 but he warned that they could remain closed for the rest of the school year.

  • Grab-and-go meals for breakfast and lunch through March 20
  • Remote learning begins on March 23
  • Approximately 300,000 iPads will be distributed initially
  • Teachers required to return to school to prepare for remote learning

Students will only be allowed to pick up grab-and-go meals for breakfast and lunch through March 20. It was not clear how meals would be distributed following that date.

The decision follows a growing number of school closures in communities and entire states around the country and mounting pressure in New York from residents, City Council members and others.

"It's very painful."

— Mayor Bill de Blasio

“It’s very painful, it’s going to be very difficult for a lot of families," de Blasio said at a Sunday afternoon news conference announcing the unprecedented school closures.

The shutdown affects the city's nearly 1,900 public schools. Many private schools already have closed.

Remote learning would begin on March 23. 

Approximately 300,000 iPads will be distributed to students at first, announced Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza. But he acknowledged that some 300,000 students have no electronic devices on which to learn remotely.

Teachers will be required to return to school to prepare for remote learning.

"Although necessary, school closures will bring new challenges. All of those challenges - from prioritizing child care relief for essential medical and hospital staff to ensuring services for vulnerable students who rely on schools for necessities like meals and medicine - must be swiftly addressed as we take this step. We owe it to all of our students to get this right,"  New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said in a statement.

Schools in Westchester, Nassau, and Suffolk counties will also close for two weeks beginning Monday.

De Blasio had been reluctant to close the school system because of the consequences for students and families.

Just Saturday, the Democratic mayor said keeping schools running was critical. He worried that health care workers, first responders, and other needed workers would have to stay home to care for children and that hundreds of thousands of poor students could go hungry without their free or reduced-price school meals.

Multiple states had already announced they were closing schools. So have cities including Los Angeles, Houston, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

Earlier on Sunday, Acting Queens Borough President Sharon Lee advised families to keep their children home from school on Monday.

“I strongly urge all Queens families, in no uncertain terms, to keep all children home away from school this week,” Lee said in a statement.

Meanwhile, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer called for a city-wide shutdown of not only schools but all non-essential services.

With the Associated Press.

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