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‘It’s time to act’: Speaker Johnson calls for schools shutdown

BY THE VILLAGE SUN | Saying it’s critical to take “aggressive measures” versus coronavirus, Council Speaker Corey Johnson on Friday said New York City must shut down its school system.

“It is time to close our public schools for the safety and well-being of the students, teachers and staff,” Johnson said.

“This is not an easy decision, but we must take aggressive measures to stop the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19. Teaching and learning cannot take place under these circumstances. 

“The City must immediately come up with a plan that includes childcare relief for families who need it, so that our essential workers, especially healthcare workers, can continue with their duties,” the speaker continued. “We must also ensure meals and medical care are provided for students who rely on schools for these crucial services.

“I have repeatedly said it is not time to panic. But it is time to act,” Johnson stressed. “We must take bold, decisive measures to do everything we can to limit the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19.”

However, Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, so far, have maintained that the schools will not be closing. Carranza said the main factor in the decision is the 100,000 students living in temporary housing or homeless shelters who depend on the schools for meals and other programs — plus other parents who lean on the schools as a social safety net.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer — who, like Johnson, is a candidate for mayor — also supports closing the schools.

“As a dad with two sons in public schools, I understand how concerning this all is for parents, teachers and kids,” Stringer said.  “At this time, I think the question is not if, but how, public schools should close. ​I know that this is very challenging for many parents, teachers and kids. 

“The concerns of our school communities must be front and center in developing these policies, which should include flexible working arrangements for all workers,​ childcare for those who need it, innovative food distribution plans, support for families with older relatives at home, continued access to counseling, and resources for households without Internet access so kids can continue learning.”

East Village Councilmember Carlina Rivera tweeted her support for Johnson’s call to shut down the schools. Rivera is already considered a front-runner for Council speaker after Johnson is term-limited out of office at the end of 2021.

In addition, Johnson said he agreed with the governor’s decision to ban large-scale gatherings. 

Johnson also urged city residents to practice social distancing “to the maximum extent practical.”

“This will mean limiting nonessential travel and avoiding unnecessary public events, including going to restaurants, bars and shops, though grocery stores and pharmacies must remain open,” he explained. “Please work from home if you are able to do so. If you are an employer, please give your employees the option to work from home if at all possible.”

Religious and community institutions should offer services and programming via video when possible, he said. However, the former Community Board 4 chairperson did not specifically mention community boards. Otherwise, he said, these groups should practice hygienic measures, like “deep cleaning and providing hand sanitizer, and maximizing physical separation between people.”

Johnson said people who are feeling symptomatic must act responsibly.

“I am urging all New Yorkers to be careful and smart in their own personal health decisions,” he said. “If you are feeling sick, please do not go to work. If you are sick enough to want to see a doctor, please call before you go.”

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