New York City will close its public schools and switch to fully remote learning for its students because of a rising number of Covid-19 cases, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday. The schools chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, wrote in an email to principals, in a worrisome signal that a second wave of the coronavirus has arrived. Schools have been open for in-person instruction for just under eight weeks.
The shutdown — which was prompted by the city’s reaching a 3 percent test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average — is perhaps the most significant setback for New York’s recovery since the spring, when the city was a global epicenter of the outbreak. The mayor’s decision, announced Wednesday on Twitter, came as the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 nears a world record of a quarter-million and as government officials in dozens of states have weighed or implemented shutdown measures in recent days to stem an unprecedented rate of new COVID-19 infections heading into the winter.
New York City joins other large districts in cities like Boston and Detroit that have recently canceled in-person learning. Within the last week, the Clark County School District, which includes Las Vegas and is the fifth largest in the United States, and Philadelphia’s public school system both postponed plans to return to in-person learning.
New York is home to the nation’s largest school system, with 1,800 schools and 1.1 million students. The city’s public school families, the vast majority of whom are low-income and Black or Latino, have endured roughly eight months of confusion about whether and when schools would be open or closed.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo said that he would shut down indoor dining in the city and impose other restrictions once the state’s data showed that the city had reached a 3 percent test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average.
Students will shift to remote learning during the indefinite shutdown and all school buildings will remain closed until further notice, NYC Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza informed parents in a letter sent to them on Wednesday. The school closures come just days after parents submitted their decision opting for blended learning– a mix of online coursework and in-person instruction– or fully remote classes for their child.