NYC teachers union urges parents demand de Blasio close schools; Cuomo says he supports closure but not until plan in place

1010 WINS Newsroom
March 15, 2020 - 2:28 pm

UPDATE: New York City schools have been closed.

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that he thinks New York City schools should be closed but only after officials figure out how to feed students and provide day care to parents who will be affected by a closure.

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"I don't think we should close the New York City schools until we have handled these two issues, child care and food," Cuomo said in a conference call.

The governor said he thinks a plan to deal with child care and food could be "handled expeditiously" and that officials who can craft a plan should be able to do so "very quickly."

"It should not take them 24 hours to figure out this plan," he said.

Meanwhile, UFT President Michael Mulgrew urged New York City parents to demand Mayor Bill de Blasio close the schools citywide amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Right now across this entire city parents and teachers are going to work together to say that we need to stop this insanity, and let’s come up with a plan,” Mulgrew said on 1010 WINS Sunday. “So that we’re all working together instead of fighting to keep the schools open or not.”

Mulgrew said a letter went out Sunday afternoon to members of the school community urging them to pressure the mayor. He's urging parents to call 311 and demand the city close the schools.

He said the virus won’t be controlled by keeping schools open. He said that the mayor should follow the lead of other districts across he tri-state and country in closing schools.

“You don’t do that by keeping the entire school system open, which we now know is furthering contamination throughout our entire city,” Mulgrew said.

He said there is fear and anxiety among teachers and that they don’t understand why they’re being told to go to school even after the state has banned gatherings of more than 500 people.

“The only way to stop contamination is to not bring large groups of people together,” Mulgrew said. “It’s perfectly reasonable. It’s common sense. Everyone seems to understand it except the mayor, that you shut the school system down.”

De Blasio has doubled down on keeping the school system open despite mounting pressure from teachers and students. The hashtag #CloseNYCSchools has been trending in recent days. Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson have called for the schools to close.

De Blasio said the school acts as a day cares for many parents and that closing the schools won’t necessarily stop the virus from spreading, all while keeping kids out of the classroom. He also said he fears the schools will end up being shut down too long.

“My blunt fear is if the schools shut down they will be done for the year, done for the school year maybe even for the calendar year. So I’m very reticent to shut down schools,” de Blasio said on CNN Sunday.

De Blasio also said children from poor families get their meals from schools and that many workers battling the coronavirus outbreak—health care workers and first responders—won't have a place to send their kids.

The mayor has not ruled out closing schools eventually and said city officials would continue a day-by-day examination. But he has noted that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that while there can be reasons to shut schools, it's not clear that closures will make more difference than other measures, such as hand-washing and isolating the sick.

“If we can keep our schools going we will. If at any point we feel it doesn’t make sense we’ll make a move,” he said on CNN.

Teachers suggest the city could find ways to provide child care for health care workers — and supply food to the hundreds of thousands of poor students who depend on school meals — without keeping the entire school system open.

The acting borough president of Queens, Sharon Lee, urged families to keep their kids home from school this week as the number of coronavirus cases in the city continued to rise.

“I strongly urge all Queens families, in no uncertain terms, to keep all children home away from school this week,” Sharon Lee said in a statement Sunday.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer also called for a city "shutdown" and the closure of schools Sunday.

Many universities and colleges have canceled classes or moved to online instruction, but New York City’s huge school system has remained open. Some city school teachers are calling for a “mass sickout” Wednesday, according to the New York Post.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said school closings remain “purely a local decision” unless a student tests positive, in which case a school must be closed for cleaning.

“The closing of schools is a significant trade-off of benefits and burdens,” he said Saturday in a conference call with reporters. "If you close the schools, there are people who will not show up for work the next day. The public education system is also a day care, in many ways.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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