New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday that public schools in the nation’s largest system, with more than 1 million children, will close Monday because of the coronavirus crisis.
He said the city would attempt to open schools after spring break, on April 20, but that “I have been very honest about the fact that there is a real possibility that by closing our schools now there is a very real chance we will not be able to reopen our schools for the first school year.”
The mayor had earlier resisted a growing chorus of demands for a shutdown, saying it would cause as many problems as it would solve, but he was confronted by dwindling attendance, a threatened teacher sickout, and increasing calls for widespread social distancing.
“We are going to come up with a number of alternatives to try as much as possible to give you kids an education remotely and to provide a physical location for the children of those crucial public workers,” de Blasio said in his announcement.
He also said he would use his emergency powers to sign an executive order requiring all New York City hospitals to cancel elective surgeries, canceling the special election for Queens borough president scheduled for March 24, and close all senior centers and convert them into food dispensaries for seniors.
Later Sunday night, he announced that he would also sign an executive order that will restrict bars, cafes, and restaurants to food takeout and delivery, and will close down clubs, movie theaters, and concert halls.
“This is not a decision I make lightly,” he said. “These places are part of the heart and soul of our city. They are part of what it means to be a New Yorker.”
The order goes into effect on Tuesday morning.
De Blasio’s decision to close the schools came hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo told The New York Times that he wanted the city's public schools, along with schools in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties to close sometime this week.
Meanwhile, the American Federation of School Administrators is pushing for a nationwide shutdown of all schools. “We do not make this request lightly and understand this decision will have a tremendous impact on the children we serve, both academically and emotionally,” the union said in a statement on Sunday.