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Cuomo and de Blasio announce schools will close

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | New York City’s schools will close Monday and stay shut until at least April 20.

Mayor de Blasio finally relented to the demand of parents and the teachers union, with many teachers threatening a “sick out,” as in not showing up to work. However, as of Sunday morning he still had been resisting the idea.

On Sunday afternoon, Governor Cuomo announced that all New York City public schools, plus schools in Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau counties, would close this week to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk schools will be shuttered starting Monday.

Cuomo said New York City must have a plan in place within 24 hours to ensure that children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs continue getting support, and that parents — especially critical healthcare workers and first responders — have access to childcare, particularly for young children.

“Any school closings need to be done with these contingencies in mind, so that children are not harmed and our hospitals aren’t understaffed,” the governor said.

Reducing density — as in, large gatherings of people — is a way to “flatten the curve,” avoiding a huge spike in cases of the virus, instead stretching the pandemic out longer but with fewer people infected at any given time.

“Our goal is to slow the spread of the virus to a rate that the healthcare system can manage, and one of the ways to do that is to reduce density,” Cuomo said. 

De Blasio said qualifying students will be able to pick up “grab and go” meals at their schools without entering the premises.

Remote online instruction for New York City students will start March 23.

And “enrichment centers” will be set up for the children of emergency and healthcare workers.

Like de Blasio, Cuomo also had been hesitant to close down the city’s schools. However, a number of officials — including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Councilmember Carlina Rivera — all called for shutting them.

Cuomo tasked SUNY Empire State College President Jim Malatras with working with counties to develop contingency plans in preparation for school closings, including how to provide meals to food-insecure children and ensuring that families have adequate access to childcare.

The county executives from Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau joined a conference call with the governor earlier on Sunday to discuss the closures.

As part of our larger social-distancing efforts, we came to the conclusion that closing schools is the right thing to do at this time,” said Steve Bellone, Suffolk County’s executive. 

Added Laura Curran, the Nassau County executive, “I thank Governor Cuomo for fully supporting our decision to close all public and private schools and for his unwavering commitment to ensure every child in Nassau County is fully taken care of while this crisis continues to unfold. We all agree that nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of our children.”

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