New York City Schools may, or may not, be closed for the year

Apr 11, 2020

Schools in New York City may, or may not, be closed through the end of the academic year — we don’t know yet because Gov. Andrew Cuomo effectively nullified an announcement from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Saturday saying those facilities would remain shuttered.

Governor Andrew Cuomo speaks to reporters on April 11.
Credit Dan Clark / New York NOW

Cuomo, speaking to reporters Saturday afternoon, said de Blasio’s announcement was an “opinion,” but that a final decision on keeping New York City schools closed hasn’t been made.

"There has been no decision,” Cuomo said. “That's the mayor's opinion."

That was news to the New York City Mayor’s Office, which announced Saturday morning, prior to Cuomo’s briefing, that schools would remain closed in the five boroughs through the rest of the academic year.

De Blasio said he didn’t want to risk a resurgence of COVID-19 in New York City, which has slowly seen a positive trend of the number of cases and hospitalizations from the disease. He later tweeted that digital devices would be made available for remote learning.

“This is a public health decision — and not an easy one. But it's the right one,” de Blasio tweeted. “The social distancing strategies have been working, and we cannot risk a resurgence of the virus.”

But, according to Cuomo, no decision has been made on whether students will return to classes in New York City this year.

Rather than allow schools in New York City to remain closed on their own, Cuomo said he wants to develop a coordinated plan between leaders from Long Island, Westchester County, Rockland County, and the five boroughs.

“I understand the mayor’s position, which is he wants to close them until June, and we may do that but we’re going to do it in a coordinated sense with the other localities,” Cuomo said. “It makes no sense for one locality to take an action that’s not coordinated with the others.”

Freddi Goldstein, de Blasio’s top spokeswoman, predicted in a tweet after Cuomo’s remarks that their announcement would stand, and that schools in New York City would, indeed, remain closed through the school year.

“The Governor's reaction to us keeping schools closed is reminiscent of how he reacted when the Mayor called for a shelter in place. We were right then and we're right now,” Goldstein tweeted. “Schools will remain closed, just like how we eventually - days later - moved to a shelter in place model.”

As of now, schools in New York state are closed through April 29, through an executive order from Cuomo. He hasn’t said if that order will be extended.

It’s not unlikely, given the trajectory of the disease. As of Saturday, 180,458 people in New York had tested positive for COVID-19, an increase of 9,946 over Friday.

The number of hospitalizations from the disease reached 18,654 Saturday, which is a net increase of 85 over Friday. Of those, 5,009 were in the intensive care unit, also an increase over Friday.

An additional 783 people died from COVID-19 between Friday and Saturday, Cuomo said, which brings the statewide total fatalities to 8,627.

But in a sign of good news, the net number of intubations due to the disease decreased for the first time Saturday in at least three weeks. It was at 4,339 as of Saturday morning, a net decrease of 26.

Last week, Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash criticized Cuomo's lack of decision on closures.

“One of the reasons why I get concerned and have mentioned it before, with this two-week-at-a-time notification from these executive orders, is it doesn’t really ever let us go into full planning mode for the remainder of the year and into next,” Cash said. “Now, if we knew we weren’t coming back for sure… we could probably save about $30 million for the remainder of the year.”