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Any hope that New York City’s 1.1 million public-school students would be able to return to their physical classrooms this school year is now officially dead. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Saturday that the city’s public-school buildings would not reopen again during this school year on account of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Though this outcome was widely expected, de Blasio — who had stubbornly resisted closing schools in the first place — acknowledged reality during his morning press conference, citing a Friday night conversation he had with Dr. Anthony Fauci.
The mayor called the announcement “painful,” but also “the right thing to do.” He also explained that it was unlikely that schools would be able to reopen until September, thus eliminating the possibility of summer session (which the city’s teachers’ union has already come out in opposition of).
The school year isn’t finished, of course, as the city continues to pursue remote learning — but that effort has not been successful in engaging students from low-income households across the city, particularly because many of those kids have not had access to the necessary internet-enabled devices.
Mayor de Blasio said Saturday that 240,000 such devices would be delivered to students by the end of April. He also said that new online activities would be released, that help line and technical-support services would be expanded, and that the Department of Education would work to address the inevitable learning loss, as well as kids’ mental health, when schools reopen in September. De Blasio said that the next school year would mark a “new era” and be the most important school year in the city’s history.
It is not yet clear what will happen with this year’s would-be graduating high-school seniors; the mayor said the city intended for them to graduate on time — but wouldn’t release a plan for how that will happen until next week.
There also remains some confusion — once again — about whether the city and state government were on the same page. New York City has the authority to close its public schools — but after de Blasio’s press conference on Saturday, Governor Andrew Cuomo said that “no decision” had been made about the move, calling the mayor’s announcement an “opinion.”