New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced this week that the city’s public schools will be closed and all learning will take place online. Local news outlet Fox 5 reported that city officials posted on social media, “Buildings are CLOSED for in-person learning until further notice. All students who were learning in school buildings part of the week will transition to remote learning every day.”
The mayor had previously stated that he would close public schools if the coronavirus testing positivity rate went over three percent over a weeklong period of time. Mayor de Blasio tweeted that the city had reached the aforementioned threshold last Wednesday, which spurred his decision to close school buildings.
But de Blasio did not acknowledge that the threshold was a general statistic and failed to account for the school population. The threshold did not take into account the following demographics: children, teenagers, and adult employees in the school system. Statistically speaking, children and teenagers have far fewer coronavirus cases than those with preexisting health conditions, obesity, or who are at an advanced age.
As background, de Blasio and the unions publicly criticized one another in September over health precautions and procedures during the coronavirus pandemic. The mayor agreed to specific procedures with the union, which had agreed to staff school buildings unless the city’s overall positivity rate spiked.
Instead of taking a data-based stand for education, de Blasio folded in the face of union pressure.
The mayor’s announcement led to swift backlash from several state governors, such as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy. Fox News reported that Cuomo’s statement, in part read, “Medical research as well as the data from Northeastern states, from across the country, and from around the world make clear that in-person learning is safe when the appropriate protections are in place, even in communities with high transmission rates.”
Mayor de Blasio’s announcement also sparked pushback from education advocates and parents, who agreed that in-person classes are not high-risk for coronavirus infection or spread and closing in-person classes harms low-income students’ academic progress and learning.