State Watch

De Blasio says NYC public schools plan to reopen in September

New York City public schools will reopen in September after closing in spring due to the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said Thursday.

De Blasio said in his daily briefing that the city is “full steam ahead for September,” with a goal of “the maximum number of kids in our schools as we begin.”

The mayor said schools without the physical space to practice social distancing and accommodate all students will open a staggered schedule that will be determined “well in advance,” with face masks required and all buildings undergoing daily deep cleaning.

“We know the sheer logistical challenges with schools that were overcrowded before the coronavirus and now have to practice social distancing,” de Blasio added.

De Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) have frequently sparred over which one of them has jurisdiction over school closures, with Cuomo announcing the decision rested with the state after de Blasio said in April that schools would be closed for the remainder of the school year.

In a statement to The Hill, a spokesperson for Cuomo’s office said that the state government will play it safe, monitoring the virus to determine if NYC schools should reopen. 

“The state law governing schools and business closings or openings has been in effect since the pandemic first started and all such decisions are made by state government and not local government,” Dani Lever, communications director for the governor’s office, said in the statement.
“Of course the state consults with local stakeholders and when it comes to opening schools in New York City we will consult with parents, teachers, health officials and local elected officials – but the Governor has said any determination is premature at this point and we will need to see how the virus develops,” Lever added.
“The Governor has also told all school districts to have plans ready for the ‘new normal’ in the event schools can open. The Governor hopes schools will reopen but will not endanger the health of students or teachers, and will make the determination once we have more current information.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, told Bloomberg the union will not go along with de Blasio’s plan unless he can guarantee it will not result in further outbreaks of the virus.

The comment comes less than a week after Mulgrew said in a New York Daily News op-ed that safely reopening in the fall would be logistically impossible without further federal funds.

“The average classroom in New York City public schools is only about 800 square feet. No more than 10 children — one-half to one-third of the normal class size — can fit into such a space while observing the social distance recommended by the Centers for Disease Control,” Mulgrew wrote.

“To safely re-open, most schools will have to create two or even three cohorts of children who would rotate between in-school and remote instruction on a regular basis,” he added. “This will create major logistical challenges for food service, transportation and cleaning services, not to mention huge child-care problems for thousands of families as adults return to the workplace.”

Updated 3:16 p.m.

Tags Andrew Cuomo Bill de Blasio Coronavirus COVID-19 New York reopening schools

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