NEW YORK — The United Federation of Teachers sent a letter to public school parents Saturday night, urging them to demand Mayor Bill de Blasio suspend classes amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The letter, signed by UFT President Michael Mulgrew, called the decision by de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza to continue regular classes “irresponsible.”
“The mayor is recklessly putting the health of our students, their families and school staff in jeopardy by refusing to close public schools,” Mulgrew wrote. “We have a small window of time to contain the coronavirus before it penetrates into our communities and overwhelms our health care system’s capacity to safely care for all New Yorkers who may become gravely ill.”
De Blasio and Carranza have said they are following CDC guidelines in keeping schools open. They have also suggested that closing schools would do more harm than good, as many students rely on the system for hot meals and a safe environment.
Several precautionary measures have been taken in an effort to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus in schools, including deep cleanings of classrooms multiple times a week, the cancellation of afterschool programs, altered gym activities and moving meals into classrooms or practicing social distancing in cafeterias.
The UFT, however, argues the city should follow suit of more than 21,000 school districts across the country and close. The letter also notes the suspension of major league sports and the closures museums and Broadway shows — all in an effort to employ social distancing practices that can help slow the spread of coronavirus.
“The city can find ways — even with the schools closed — to keep our children safe, to see that they are fed and to provide other supports for working families,” Mulgrew wrote.
As of Saturday evening, New York City had at least 269 confirmed cases of coronavirus, according to the state Department of Health. The city reported its first coronavirus-related death, an 82-year-old Brooklyn woman, Saturday morning.