NYC schools closed for rest of year, will continue with distance learning, mayor says

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NEW YORK — Editor’s note: Gov. Andrew Cuomo said there has been no decision on whether New York City schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year, adding that only he has the authority to make that decision. Read more.

New York City schools will remain closed for the remainder of the year amid the coronavirus outbreak,Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Saturday.

Teachers, school staff and students will continue to employ distance learning to finish out the school year. The mayor said the decision, though difficult to make, will help save lives.

School buildings in the nation’s largest public system have been closed since March 16. Schools are expected to reopen in September for the start of the next academic year.

The mayor said it wouldn’t be fair or safe to bring schools back between May and June.

“If we just brought back kids for a few weeks, it wouldn’t help,” de Blasio said, also pointing out the possibility that individual schools would need to close again if a related case of COVID-19 was confirmed.

A massive effort to move instruction online has met mixed success. Many low-income students lack Wi-Fi and devices for connecting to their virtual classrooms.

Parents and guardians who reported to the district a need for an internet-enable learning device were sent learning packets so that students could continue their education on paper.

De Blasio called teachers’ ability to transition to distance learning in such a short time “heroic.”

“Everyone went above and beyond because they realized” how much was at stake for the children, he said.

The mayor outlined a five-point plan in continuing on a distance learning model:

  • The administration will complete deliveries of internet-enabled digital devices to all 240,000 students who do not have one by the end of April.
  • There will be an expansion of the parent help line, tech support hours and staffing.
  • The administration will launch new online activities and programs for students to access at home.
  • A plan is being developed to ensure thousands of seniors graduate this year: “We do not want to see our seniors robbed of this moment,” de Blasio said.
  • Schools are expected to reopen in September with a plan to combat loss of learning.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said more information on the school closure and planned reopening would be announced in the coming weeks.

When asked if the school year could be extended to make up for any lost learning, Carranza wouldn’t commit to the idea but said that everything was on the table.

Teachers are taking attendance once a day and reporting the information to the city Department of Education.

“What we’re paying attention to is students who have not been in contact,” Carranza added. “Teachers and school administrators have been trying to reach them.”

The way teachers are grading students has also changed, according to the chancellor, who emphasized the focus has shifted to a “trauma-informed learning,” so that students understand what is happening to them and why.

Distance learning is expected to continue through the summer as officials continue to track the coronavirus outbreak.

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