New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio started rebuffing any effort to close schools last week saying, “we are going to do our damnedest to keep the schools open.”
By the end of last week, the second and third largest education systems, Los Angeles and Chicago, had announced the suspension of classes. Several large states such as Florida and Ohio have announced the cancellations of classes, too. On Sunday, it was announced that Nassau and Suffolk county schools will be closed for two weeks, NBC News reported.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday explained some of the reasons why it's not so easy to close schools in the city.
"For many families, school is childcare. There are school districts in wealthier states where one parent can stay home or hire caregiver, but then there’s everyone else," Cuomo said. "It’s not simple. How do you feed the children? The breakfast and lunch are the main meal they get. How do you distribute food to children not in school? if you can address those concerns, then yes, close the schools."
Emily James, a teacher at a Brooklyn high school, says the schools are a bad environment for coronavirus, teachers and kids can’t get the testing they need and she fears the students who need meals and other services will be shunned by the broader community.
James, no stranger to lobbying City Hall for change having pushed for and getting paid parental leave for new parents, took to Facebook to describe what she’s seeing in the school.
She says the crowded nature of the schools and lack of testing to find out who has a simple cough and who might have coronavirus is troubling, “basically all the precautions that the city has laid out for people to take, teachers and students are unable to take those precautions and that’s being ignored.”
The crowding from the halls to gyms packed with hundreds of kids is particularly concerning given the city’s recommendation to practice social distancing. She says, “it’s like a gridlock jam, you can’t get through”, adding, “there’s just no space in New York City schools.”
The mayor says he believes health care workers and first responders will need to stay home to take care of their kids instead of doing their vital work in the face of a pandemic.
"I know there are millions of parents that rely on our public schools," de Blasio said Sunday morning. "The kids, not only do they need an education, they need a place with meals. They need adult supervision."
"I want to caution how imperfect that situation would be," de Blasio said. City Hall did not respond to NBC News' request for comment.