CORONAVIRUS LIVE UPDATES: State English tests are suspended

🔗March 18

🔗State English tests are suspended

The state has suspended upcoming reading tests, it announced Wednesday. 

Officials said they were halting the delivery of paper-based reading tests to schools. Computer-based testing would also be halted. 

It’s an unsurprising move, since districts across the state remain closed until at least the end of the month, and New York City schools are closed until at least April 20. Reading assessments were scheduled to start on March 25. 

“During the time of closure, schools need not focus on State assessments and can devote their efforts toward local school and community needs,” education officials told districts in a Tuesday letter.

Officials did not say how long the suspension will last, and the notice does not mean reading tests are canceled altogether. In the letter to districts, the state said it was “working on its plans” for tests going forward. 

It’s unclear what is happening with math tests, slated to start on April 21.

Some state politicians called for the state to suspend all state assessments in a letter to Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa. Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on the federal government to cancel the tests altogether. 

States are federally required to take these tests, but the federal government will allow states to apply for one-year waivers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Last week, the state said it would apply for such waivers on behalf of affected districts. It had also asked districts to administer tests during the make-up window, which was extended, if schools opened by then.

🔗More details on regional enrichment centers, more struggles for crossing guards and others who don’t get paid when school is out.

The city has released more details on its Regional Enrichment Centers, where health care, transit, and emergency services workers can send their children for childcare and remote learning. 

There will be about 100 of these sites at school buildings across the city, though we don’t know exactly where yet. Classrooms won’t have more than 12 students per class, to maintain social distancing and “personalized learning.” Each building will have three hot meals for students, and will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Read our FAQ for more.

We also wrote about school workers who may be staring down weeks without a paycheck as schools remain closed until at least April 20, possibly the rest of the year.

Crossing guards don’t earn pay while school is not in session, whether it is a snow day or summer vacation, and neither do several other types of employees. 

“I find it so unfair. It seems like we’re last on the list to get anything,” one crossing guard told us. “A lot of them are saying, ‘What happens to my bills?’”

🔗March 17

🔗Mayor de Blasio raises possibility of shelter in place for NYC

Teachers at New York City school returned today to develop online learning lessons. They are supposed to return the next two days, but that could change if there’s a shelter in place order.

“New Yorkers should be prepared right now for the possibility of a shelter in place order,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday afternoon. “It has not happened yet, but it is a possibility at this point.”

The decision would be made within the next 48 hours, he said.

As of Tuesday, there were 814 coronavirus cases and seven related deaths.

The mayor also urged all New Yorkers to text the word COVID to 692-692 to get alerts.

🔗March 16

🔗Mayor de Blasio fields concerns about educators returning to school buildings

In the first press conference since announcing the closure of the nation’s largest school district, Mayor Bill de Blasio and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza offered some new details about how the closure will work, what it will mean for students with disabilities, and why educators are being asked to report to work this week.

Here’s what we learned:

  • Don’t expect schools to reopen on April 20. City officials have said that’s the goal, but de Blasio emphasized Monday that “will be very difficult to achieve” — suggesting that the four-week closures could stretch on for much of the school year.
  • Training educators to teach students remotely can’t be done… remotely. Some educators have expressed concern that they’re being asked to commute to school buildings Tuesday through Thursday this week, even though officials are urging “social distancing” and cautioned against even modest gatherings. “We’re in a full mobilization and we can’t train them as well from afar,” de Blasio said.
  • Some special education services might happen virtually. Carranza said the education department is still working out details for students with disabilities, but said services like speech therapy could be provided “via virtual reality.”
  • The DOE has 30,000 iPads at the ready. Officials previously said that 300,000 families would need devices to access remote learning and are working to supply the full amount. Carranza said students with disabilities and homeless students will be “first in line.”
  • Schools handed out meals to 14,000 students today. That’s a tiny fraction of the city’s 1.1 million students, but Carranza said the department expects that number to grow as word gets out that the school system is offering free meals to those who show up at any school site.
🔗Schools to close across New York state, governor says

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is working with the state education department to close the remaining 14% of schools across New York  that remain open, he said at a Monday morning press conference. The shutdown would last for at least two weeks, he said.

“If in two weeks, everything is miraculously fine, I’ll reopen,” Cuomo said. 

More details are expected to be released later today. Cuomo wants to make sure districts have a plan in place to serve children who have no other place to go, allowing medical workers to remain on the front lines of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. 

 “I want to make sure every school district is in a position to do that, and they know it’s coming and they’re preparing for it,” he said.  

New York City announced Sunday night that the country’s largest school system would close its doors and move to remote learning, as political pressure mounted against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s steadfast insistence that they remain open. The number of coronavirus cases climbed to 463 in New York City as of Monday morning, Cuomo said.

🔗March 15

🔗New York schools to close Monday for at least four weeks

New York City public schools will close down Monday through at least April 20 to stem the spread of the new coronavirus pandemic, a decision that has sweeping ramifications for the city’s 1.1 million students and their families.

“For everyone who is wondering why this has been such a difficult decision: I know the full cost,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at City Hall on Sunday. “It’s very painful. It’s going to be very difficult for a lot of families.”

His announcement came shortly after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the nation’s largest school district would close, ending days of mounting pressure from teachers, politicians, and parents. New York City had 329 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Sunday evening, and five deaths related to the illness, de Blasio said.

Read more here

🔗Union for health care workers calls on NYC to close schools

1199 SEIU, the health care workers union, is now calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to close city schools. It’s a reversal from just two days ago, when the union asked for schools to remain open because their workers, who are critical to the city’s coronavirus response, would have to find childcare options. 

De Blasio has said those concerns were top of mind in his decision to keep schools open. In his statement, president George Gresham’s said he’s been talking to “other allies” on providing childcare through school resource centers, though further details were not clear.

Gresham’s full statement is below:

“It’s no secret that hardworking healthcare workers are on the front lines of the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19.  These dedicated women and men work diligently day in and day out to care for their patients and to protect public health, but like all working parents, they also have a responsibility to protect their own children.   

“I have been in discussion with other allies on the possibility of providing this much needed childcare through school resource centers, and I am confident that a plan will be reached to ensure that these children receive the care they need while their parents work. I also encourage the state and city to look into allocating additional funding for childcare for the children of healthcare workers and other essential employees.

 “With these critical processes moving, I am now calling on Mayor de Blasio to close New York City’s public schools to help protect public health and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

🔗A Queens school safety agent tests positive for the coronavirus, and the Queens borough president urges families to stay home

P.S. 306 in Woodhaven, Queens, is being deep cleaned today after a school safety agent tested positive for the new coronavirus, education department officials said. The school, which serves roughly 400 children, is expected to be open on Monday. 

The agent, one of roughly 5,000 NYPD officers who provide security at the city’s public schools, was last at work on March 6, according to officials.

Queens’ acting borough president, Sharon Lee, meanwhile, is urging students to stay home. “I strongly urge all Queens families, in no uncertain terms, to keep all children home away from school this week,” Lee said in a statement.

🔗March 14

🔗State trying to find “creative” solutions for citywide school closures

The state is trying to find ways to provide childcare for New York City health care workers if city public schools shut down, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday night. 

New York state officials are talking to 1199SEIU, the union that represents health care workers, about ensuring that their children are cared for and that they are able to get to work in case of system-wide school closures, the governor said. It was the first time state or city officials have provided any insight into a contingency plan in case schools shutter.

“We’re trying to be very creative to come up with ways where we could close schools in New York City, but avert the negative — again the main negative, which I’ve been saying, is losing health care workers in hospitals,” Cuomo said. 

The healthcare union supports keeping schools open. And Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have been reluctant to close schools because of the childcare issues it presents to families, especially those parents who are health care workers. They have also said such closures would not necessarily help stem the spread of the coronavirus, following guidance Thursday from the Centers for Disease Control. 

In addition, the governor and the mayor have highlighted how students rely on schools for basic needs, such as meals. But both have faced mounting pressure as states and cities across the nation have closed their schools’ doors. Almost all of the nation’s 30 largest school districts are closed next week. In New York City, elected officials and the unions representing teachers and principals have called for citywide closures. 

De Blasio has previously said the city is planning for every scenario, but details of such a plan for citywide closures have not been shared. On Saturday, he held the line of keeping schools open, while saying it’s a conversation his administration is having daily.

🔗Some NYC educators say they’ll stage a sickout, if city schools don’t close

A group of educators within the teachers union has threatened to stay home on Monday if the city doesn’t order a system-wide shutdown of schools. 

The Movement of Rank and File Educators, or MORE, which describes itself as the social justice caucus of the UFT, said closing schools is the “socially responsible course of action” to slow the spread of the coronavirus. They pointed to elected officials, such as Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who have called for schools to be closed.

On Saturday, teachers held an organizing call, which was said to have about 400 participants, most of whom were not formally associated with MORE, according to a teacher who was on the call. 

So far, three New York City public school students have tested positive for the coronavirus, closing schools in Staten Island and Brooklyn. 

Mayor Bill de Blasio has strongly resisted a mass shutdown, saying closures would put an outsized burden on families who rely on them for meals and childcare. On Saturday, he expressed concern for the effect it would have on healthcare workers, who may need to stay home to care for their children. He also pointed to recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance that says short-term school closures would not have an impact on slowing the virus’s spread.

“The teachers who feel differently, they have the right to protest all they want, and they know what their contractual rules are, and they have to make a decision,” de Blasio told reporters Saturday. “But there are rules of employment, and the folks who are showing up and doing their work are the vast majority — that is the fact.”

MORE member Liat Olenick, who teaches science at Brooklyn Arbor Elementary School, said she’s staying home Monday on the advice of her doctors since she takes immunosuppressants for a liver transplant she had in college. But the rules of staying home and taking leave in her situation still feel unclear, even after speaking with her principal. 

She noted that “there are certainly thousands of staff that have underlying health issues that’s probably especially scared right now,” she said. 

The education department has told staff with underlying conditions, such as a compromised immune system or heart disease, to email or talk to a supervisor for more guidance, according to the UFT.

The union did not directly say whether it supports the sickout. But in a statement, president Michael Mulgrew said, “The mayor’s reckless refusal to close the schools has created a climate of fear. Public health demands the closure of our schools now.”

On Friday, which was also a half-day for many schools, day-over-day student attendance dropped from 85% to 68%. An average of 3.9% of teachers did not show up to work this week, compared to 1.6% this week last year, according to the education department. (Teacher attendance data can lag, the department noted.)

MORE raised concerns about the health of their teachers and students. It appeared to back a plan from City Councilman Mark Treyger, who has suggested closing schools and moving to a summer-school model, which would keep a few sites open in each borough for families who need special education services, meals, and childcare. 

“We are happy to work distributing food to our students or providing them with online instruction,” MORE wrote. “But if students are being called in to schools that are dangerous to them and their elderly relatives at home, thousands of educators will call in sick on Monday and #closenycpublicschools themselves.”

🔗Student at Staten Island middle school tests positive for COVID-19

I.S. 27 in Staten Island will be deep-cleaned this weekend after a student tested positive for the coronavirus, city officials said Saturday afternoon.

The child was the third district student with a confirmed case of the virus. They were not in school all of last week because they did not feel well, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at an afternoon press conference. 

The student was not in school while displaying any symptoms, said Miranda Barbot, spokesperson for the city’s education department.

The school building will be cleaned over the weekend, and officials are expecting it to open on Monday. It needs confirmation from the health department before it can do so.

The school community has been notified via emails and robocalls and will be alerted on Sunday about whether they can return this week, Barbot said. 

🔗March 13

🔗State tests could be waived for affected schools

The state education department will ask federal officials to waive upcoming state tests for New York schools that are significantly affected by the new coronavirus, according to new guidance released Friday afternoon. 

That would include schools with extended closures that bleed into the federally required reading and math tests scheduled to begin March 25 for third through eight graders. 

The education department will also extend the window of time that students can take make-up tests, urging districts and schools to give the assessments during that time frame if they’re not closed that whole time. Before, the make-up window for paper-based reading tests ran from March 30 to April 1, and is now extended to April 8. The make-up window for April math tests was April 24-28, and was extended to May 5.

The state’s guidance follows the federal government’s announcement that it would consider one-year testing waivers for schools impacted by the new virus. Federal officials will also consider one-year waivers for other school accountability measures that determine whether a school is struggling. One example of those measures is chronic absenteeism, which could increase because of the public health crisis.

Also on Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state education commissioner can allow schools to continue receiving state dollars if they are not able to hold the required 180 days of school due to closures linked to the new coronavirus. 

It was unclear how districts would attempt making up instructional days and if they would be required to cancel scheduled school holidays, said Bob Lowry, deputy director for advocacy and communication at the state’s Council of School Superintendents.   

The governor’s office did not immediately respond for comment. 

🔗If more NYC schools close because of coronavirus, here are tips to ease the burden on students with disabilities

New York City’s first coronavirus-connected school closures have hit students with disabilities particularly hard.

On Wednesday, a Harlem charter school program for students with disabilities closed. Thursday saw two Bronx schools that serve significant numbers of students with disabilities close their doors for a day. And on Friday, a District 75 program in Brooklyn shuttered as well.

For now, the rest of New York City’s schools remain open. But if that changes, it will pose particular challenges for the city’s more than 220,000 students with disabilities, many of whom rely on schools for crucial therapies like speech and often find comfort in classroom routines and relationships. 

Advocates say it’s time to begin planning to reduce the impact on students.

Read the full story.

🔗NYC teachers union calls on de Blasio to shut down schools as parents increasingly keep kids home

Amid growing coronavirus concerns, New York City’s teachers union as well as the union representing school administrators called on Friday for the country’s largest school system to close its doors in the face of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s strident opposition.

“We understand the immense disruption this will create for our families,”  teachers union president Michael Mulgrew said in a statement. “But right now more than a million students and staff crisscross the city every day on their way to schools, putting themselves and others at risk of exposure and increasing the likelihood of bringing exposure into their homes and communities.”

Meanwhile, New York City parents, educators, and schools are increasingly taking matters into their own hands as concerns about coronavirus mount — along with the number of confirmed cases.

Read the full story.

🔗Charter schools move to remote learning

Success Academy, New York City’s largest charter network, announced Friday morning it will move to remote learning next week, a move that will affect 18,000 students across 45 schools.

Students will be off Monday through Wednesday next week while educators prepare to teach lessons remotely. Students will resume their coursework on Thursday. There are no confirmed coronavirus cases at the charter network.

A slew of other large charter networks also announced they would shut down and move toward remote learning:

  • Democracy Prep, which operates 12 schools in New York serving 4,200 students, closed Friday and will move to remote learning through April 19. There are no confirmed coronavirus cases at Democracy Prep, though the network closed four schools on Wednesday because a staff member’s relative tested positive.
  • Uncommon Schools, which operates 24 schools in Brooklyn serving 8,700 students, will move to remote learning until at least March 30.
  • KIPP, which operates 15 schools with nearly 6,000 students according to its website, will move to remote learning until at least March 30.
  • Achievement First, which operates 23 schools in Brooklyn, closed until at least March 30.
🔗More NYC district schools close

Three more schools and a program serving students with disabilities are closed today due to the coronavirus.

New Dorp High School and the Richard H. Hungerford School, which share a campus on Staten Island, had to shutter after a student was diagnosed with the virus. New Dorp serves about 3,000 students.

Also closed: The Brooklyn College Academy site that shares a campus with Brooklyn College. The entire college campus was closed after a student there self-reported a positive case.

The Brooklyn Occupational Center, which includes four sites, has also closed its doors. That program enrolls about 500 students with disabilities. The center “serves students who are medically fragile, and a teacher has self-reported a positive case,” according to a tweet sent by the city education department.

The cases at Brooklyn College Academy and Brooklyn Occupational Center are self-reported, which means city health officials have not independently verified that there is a positive test for coronavirus. On Thursday, a self-reported case caused two Bronx schools to close, but they have reopened after the city found the student had not tested positive.

The buildings are being disinfected, according to the education department. They will be closed for at least 24 hours, per a governor’s order.

🔗March 12

🔗At Brooklyn’s P.S. 107, some urge closure as a parent is diagnosed

A parent of two students who attend P.S. 107 in Brooklyn has tested positive for the new coronavirus, but the school is keeping its doors open for now. News of the infection was first published in the neighborhood news site Patch, which also reported that the individual’s two children have yet to receive the results of their own COVID-19 tests.

Some parents at the Park Slope elementary school reportedly pulled their children from school and are urging Mayor Bill de Blasio to shut it down.

One P.S. 107 parent, Lesley Oseep, told Chalkbeat that several parents at the school kept their children home on Thursday. Although New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has mandated that a school be closed if a student or staff member contracts the disease, there is no requirement to cancel classes if a family member is diagnosed.

That’s a potentially dangerous omission, said Oseep, who had taken her children out of school even before news of the diagnosis in the school community.

“We have to do what we can to not let this turn into Italy,” where infections skyrocketed, she said.

City Councilman Brad Lander tweeted Thursday that P.S. 107 should be subject to a 24-hour closure. “Given that the [education department] declined our pleas, we stand with you in whatever decision your family feels is right about whether your children attend school tomorrow,” he said in an attached statement.

So far, the mayor has been reluctant to close campuses, noting the hardship it would cause city families, especially low-income families who rely on schools for meals and childcare.

To that point, Oseep said she’s in favor of encouraging those who can pull their children from class to do so, all the while keeping schools open with a skeletal staff in place.

🔗UFT president: “ALL options” should be on the table to stop the coronavirus

As pressure mounted to close city schools in the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic, teachers union president Michael Mulgrew said in a statement late Thursday that his members are right to be worried, and “ALL options to stop the spread of this virus should now be on the table.”

Mulgrew said the union received reports of possible new coronavirus cases at schools across the city. A parent of a student in Brooklyn tested positive for the illness, according to Patch, prompting concern from two City Council members. Two Bronx schools were closed because a parent reported their child tested positive, but city officials later discovered the student had not tested positive.

Mulgrew’s comments came just hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio stood firm in his decision to keep the school system open as elected officials increasingly called on considering a systemwide shutdown. Ohio, Maryland, and multiple cities have also closed their public school systems.

Here is the full statement Mulgrew sent the union’s nearly 200,000 members:

“We are gravely concerned about the reports that the UFT received today from schools across the city of possible new coronavirus cases. UFT members are right to be troubled. We are in constant contact with City Hall and the city Department of Education as we continue to do everything in our power to protect our school communities. We will continue our communication with government officials. We believe that ALL options to stop the spread of this virus should now be on the table. We will update you tomorrow.”

🔗De Blasio declares state of emergency for NYC, remains defiant against closing schools citywide

Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency in New York City in the wake of the new coronavirus pandemic.

Using this designation, the mayor directed agency heads to “take all appropriate steps” to protect their employees and do what’s necessary to protect the public, such as shutting down public transportation or making additional food purchases. Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state emergency in New York last week, which grants broad powers for things like expedited hiring, procurement of services, and leasing of lab space.

During an afternoon press conference, the mayor’s tone was significantly more cautionary than it had been during the past two weeks, saying the past 24 hours were “very, very sobering.” Since Wednesday, 42 more positive cases were reported in the city. De Blasio said he expects 1,000 total positive cases in the city by next week.

Earlier Thursday, the governor announced that gatherings of more than 500 people would be banned, except for schools, mass transit, nursing homes or hospitals.

The mayor said the city will do “our damnedest” to keep the nation’s largest school system open. Over the past two weeks, the mayor has said citywide school closures could cause mass disruption for families who rely on schools for a slew of services, including meals and childcare.

“We are going to fight tooth and nail to protect our school system,” de Blasio said during an afternoon press conference.

The city has also ordered the cancellation of non-essential school events, such as sports practices and games, assemblies, and school plays and recitals, the mayor said. Earlier this week, parent-teacher conferences were required to go virtual, and the same will be mandated for PTA meetings.

The political pressure to close schools is mounting for both de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo as more cities and states close schools, and elected officials have called on the city to devise a plan. The governors of Ohio and Maryland ordered statewide closures of public schools on Thursday, while more cities, such as Indianapolis and Memphis closed their schools.

In a tweet Thursday afternoon, New York’s City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said “large-scale school closures should be considered,” and called for a decision to be made before the end of this week.

Councilman Mark Treyger, chair of the city’s education committee, has proposed a contingency plan for systemwide closures, and told Chalkbeat that he’s continuing to hear concern over the situation from Brooklyn school leaders and parents.

For parents who are concerned about their children, they should be “vigilant about symptoms,” and “have a low threshold” for contacting their pediatricians if they notice any symptoms of the coronavirus, such as cough, shortness of breath, or a fever.

🔗Governor says no gatherings of more than 500… but that doesn’t include schools

New York reported 328 positive cases of the coronavirus, with 95 of those in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday afternoon. It’s unclear whether one of those included the student who tested positive, according to their parent, prompting two school closings in the Bronx.

The state will ban gatherings of more than 500 people starting Friday, but this doesn’t apply to schools, Cuomo said.

As of last school year, 838 New York City district schools enrolled more than 500 students, according to department data. The largest of those is Brooklyn Tech, a sought-after specialized high school, which last year enrolled nearly 6,000 students. Parents there, who say the building sees more than 7,200 people inside daily, have asked city officials to close the school.

“We understand that children have demonstrated that they can weather the Covid-19 virus well,” the schools’ parent association wrote in a letter. “However, the true issue is that they go home from being with so many students after taking public transportation and bring the virus home to immune compromised siblings, parents, grandparents and other household members.”

Closing schools en masse continued to seem out of the question. Such a move would be “tremendously disruptive to all of society,” Cuomo said.

“Because now how does somebody go to work if their kids are going to be home, so that’s a problem there?” Cuomo said.

At most they expect 40 kids in a classroom, which doesn’t rise in concern that larger “congregate spaces” could present, said Melissa DeRosa, a spokesperson for the governor

🔗The latest from Chalkbeat New York:
🔗NYC Councilman wants to keep ‘select’ school sites open, in case of widespread closures

As school districts around the nation close in response to the new coronavirus, one City Council member has floated a contingency plan for what to do if city schools shut down.

Councilman Mark Treyger, who is the chair of the Council’s education committee, said he emailed this plan to Mayor Bill de Blasio and schools Chancellor Richard Carranza on Wednesday, as more families have raised concerns about the illness. The mayor has been resistant to a citywide shutdown of schools, noting that many families rely on schools for essential services, such as meals and childcare, and has not revealed details about what would happen in such a scenario.

Treyger’s proposal would keep “a few select” school sites open in each of the five boroughs for students who require services, such as students with special needs. Those sites, which would have to be selected by the education department, would have to be fully accessible and would also provide grab-and-go meals and medical services for students who need them, he said.

Additionally, under his plan, families who need childcare services would be able to send their children to these sites. For students staying home, the education department would provide instructional materials for every school, including paper materials for those who don’t have access to the internet.

“If you make the system more manageable by condensing into a few sites across the boroughs, you could adequately stock up each site with enough services,” Treyger said in an interview.

The department will review Treyger’s email, an official said.

“It is our responsibility to be prepared to serve students and families and we have plans in place including remote learning opportunities and the continuation of service of free meals,” said Katie O’Hanlon, a department spokesperson, in a statement. “We know the closure of a school can cause disruption and anxiety for parents, students and staff, and it’s a last resort.”

It’s unclear how feasible such a plan would be, and could come with some challenges. In order to slow the spread of the coronavirus, public health officials have urged people to regularly wash their hands and distance themselves from others, since it spreads through person-to-person contact. The mayor has said the virus can live on hard surfaces for just a few minutes, but a recent study suggests the virus can live on hard surfaces for days and can even live in the air for up to three hours.

Treyger acknowledged that his plan would still require people to be in close quarters, but said he’s offering a happy-medium solution — reducing social contact and providing for families the services they rely on, such as hot meals, childcare and services for students with disabilities.

“I believe if you go toward a complete shutdown, you might be creating additional public health emergencies while you are dealing with this public health emergency,” Treyger said in an interview.

This plan would also require some educators to come to work, which could be a unique challenge during a pandemic. Teachers may want to stay home out of precaution, especially if they are older or have compromised immune systems. Treyger also acknowledged that challenge, but said he’s heard from teachers and a paraprofessional who would be willing to work. The education department would have to take stock of its staff to ensure no one with a compromised immune system would be teaching, Treyger said.

🔗NYC closes its first district schools

The city closed two South Bronx schools Thursday morning after a student reported testing positive for the coronavirus, marking the first publicly reported case of a New York City public school student becoming ill, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.

The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology and South Bronx Preparatory: A College Board School, which share a building on East 145th Street, will close for at least 24 hours, as required by the state.

Read the full story.

🔗March 11

🔗UFT cancels hundreds of events, including its ‘lobby day’

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, the city’s teachers union is canceling hundreds of events, ranging from professional development sessions to its “lobby day” where roughly 1,000 educators were set to travel on Monday to Albany.

United Federation of Teachers chief Michael Mulgrew said the pause on union gatherings, meant to avoid the risk of spreading the virus, would run at least through March 22.

“If it continues to get worse, we’ll extend probably another two weeks,” Mulgrew said, calling the situation a “health crisis.”

Members of the union’s leadership will still meet with individual legislators, officials said, and would continue their advocacy on social media.

The education department’s own professional development sessions would continue and that no other teacher gatherings have been canceled, a department spokesperson said.

🔗Democracy Prep closes four schools in Harlem

The Democracy Prep charter network shut down four schools that share a campus in Harlem on Wednesday after a relative of a “service provider” at the Harlem Prep Elementary School tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said.

That led three other programs in the building to shut down: Democracy Prep Endurance High, Harlem Prep High, and Pathways, a program for students with disabilities.

The staffer “came into direct contact with less than 10 scholars and no adults,” according to a letter sent home to families. The building will also undergo a deep cleaning.

In the meantime, officials are working to send schoolwork home and will also make “grab and go” lunches available to families for pickup starting Thursday.

If the staff member tests positive, the schools will remain closed for at least 24 hours after the results come back, according to state rules.

🔗SUNY and CUNY will soon move to remote learning

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases continued to climb across the state, with 48 reported in New York City as of this afternoon, and 212 statewide.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state and city university systems — SUNY and CUNY — would begin a “distance learning model” on March 19, following in the footsteps of several other universities across the country.

Campuses would not shut down completely, state officials said. Some limited in-person work would continue, and students facing “hardships” would be allowed to stay on campus, though the details are not immediately clear.

Meanwhile, Mayor Bill de Blasio once again signaled that the city’s public schools would continue to stay open, arguing that many low-income families depend on them.

“Some places are closing schools on masse. We think that’s a mistake,” de Blasio said during an MSNBC appearance.

State officials have previously said public schools would close for at least 24 hours if a parent or student contracts the coronavirus. As of this morning, no students or teachers in the city’s public schools have tested positive, an education department spokesperson said. Catholic schools announced they would close for 48 hours if a community member is confirmed to have the virus.

🔗Remote parent conferences will be complicated

Many parent conferences are scheduled for tomorrow and Friday — and schools are scrambling with how to do that after learning last night that they will continue virtually.

Some educators said the logistics of that could be quite complicated.

Math teacher Bobson Wong said his school, Bayside High School in Queens, doesn’t have enough separate phone lines for teachers to conduct conferences by phone, and many parents don’t have internet access for video conferencing.

“We have [nearly] 3,000 students — it’s not practical for teachers to call every single parent,” Wong said, adding that the conversations typically only last a few minutes in person. He is reluctant to communicate with parents on his personal cell phone because he wants to maintain distance between his work and personal communications.

Teachers may ultimately text or email feedback to parents, Wong said. With his conferences scheduled for next week, “Our school hasn’t really made a decision about this yet.”

🔗March 10

🔗Here’s what we know about children, infection rates, and COVID-19

Epidemiologists are looking at the available data from China, where the coronavirus outbreak began last year. So far, severe cases among children there have been rare. But there are open questions about what role children (and adults without symptoms) play in spreading the disease — critical information for schools and families deciding how to respond.

Read the full story.

🔗Parent-teacher conferences go virtual

The New York City education department on Tuesday announced that parent-teacher conferences scheduled for this week will go on — but not in person.

The department has asked schools to communicate with families by Wednesday about how they can participate in telephone conversations or virtually, instead of coming to campus. Conferences are scheduled for Thursday and Friday, though others already took place last week.

If families can’t adjust to the new measures, “schools will offer a more flexible schedule based on school and parent schedules through the rest of the month,” according to a tweet sent by the education department.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said the education department “made the right decision.”

“Given the level of concern over the coronavirus, parent-teacher conferences in the upcoming weeks should be conducted by phone or internet,” he said in a statement.

🔗Far Rockaway charter school cancels classes

A charter school in Far Rockaway is closing its K-8 sites after a case of the coronavirus was confirmed in the area.

Challenge Charter School is cancelling classes “in light of a recent confirmed case of the coronavirus in the Rockaways,” according to a notice posted on its website. The closure is in effect from Wednesday through Friday, and classes will resume on Monday, March 16.

“Please understand there is no threat to our scholars. As with many other schools and districts across the region and nation, this action is a proactive measure in the prevention of the spread of the virus,” the message said.

🔗NYC enlists school nurses to track, screen the coronavirus

School nurses will be trained to be disease detectives and do initial screenings for the virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday.

“One thing we’ll be doing is getting these very effective school nurses into this work immediately,” he said.

The city wants to double its number of disease detectives from 50 to 100.

Disease detectives are public health workers who track down people an infected person may have been in contact with, and places that person may have gone, all in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. It’s unclear, however, what the role of school nurses will be. The city also did not explain how quickly they would be trained.

🔗Many parents had questions about the upcoming state exams given to third through eighth graders

Paper-based English tests must be administered between March 25-27. Paper-based math tests are scheduled for April 21-23.

The state education department said Tuesday it will release guidance “soon” on testing. Schools will be required to close for at least 24 hours if they have a student or staffer positive for the coronavirus, but it’s unclear what educators should do if that closure happens during state testing windows.

🔗Will more classes soon be held outside?

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidance, suggesting that schools increase ventilation, consider adjusting or postponing gatherings that mix between classes and grades, and hold classes outdoors or in open areas, when possible. It also calls for strengthening health screening for cafeteria staff.

🔗Schools are closing in New Rochelle

The latest number of positive cases of coronavirus in New York City has reached 36, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

A two-week closure of schools and other large gatherings will be in effect within a 1-mile radius of the coronavirus outbreak in New Rochelle, an epicenter of New York’s confirmed cases, from Thursday through March 25.

The National Guard will deliver food to homes and help clean public spaces within the area, Cuomo said.

The state’s guidance for school closures, released yesterday evening, recommends districts put together a plan for several different things, including special education. It’s unclear what progress the city has made in that direction because a closure contingency plan hasn’t been made public.  

🔗March 9

Here’s the latest in Chalkbeat’s continuing coverage:

🔗Coronavirus highlights the many roles school nurses play

As more schools grapple with the coronavirus outbreak, school nurses play an important role in keeping staff, parents, and students informed. But not all schools have a full-time nurse, or a nurse at all, to offer that support. More than a third of school nurses work in three or more schools, according to the University of Washington and the National Association of School Nurses. And about one in five public schools has no paid nursing support at all.

In New York City, officials have pledged a nurse for every school in response to coronavirus concerns. But many districts across the country do not employ full-time nurses or have the ability to quickly add staff — a situation experts say doesn’t necessarily mean schools will be unprepared, but does make responding to fast-changing public health guidance more difficult.

Read the full story.

🔗Should NYC close schools? Here’s what research says

Past experiences make clear that there are no easy answers. Research has found that such closures have helped contain outbreaks. But closing schools would also present significant challenges for families — especially low-income families. And the best decisions likely depend on both local context and facts about the virus, like its fatality rate, that aren’t yet fully known.

Read the full story.

🔗NYC will offer ‘grab and go’ meals in the event schools close

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said that closing schools would be a “last resort,” given the tremendous hardship it would cause families, particularly low-income families who rely on schools for free meals and childcare. But in the event that campuses close, the city has a plan for the nutrition part of the equation. “We know that for many families, school is the only place to get meals for the day and that need continues even if a school closes,” an education department spokesperson said. “If a school is closed for 24 hours, we’re prepared to serve grab-and-go breakfast and lunch for any student who wants it.”

🔗If a student or staffer gets coronavirus, the school will close for 24 hours: Cuomo

The guidance from the governor’s office requires a child’s school to be closed for at least 24 hours to clean the campus and “to assess facts and circumstances of that school,” such as figuring out how the child got the virus, Cuomo said. It comes less than a week after the state education department said schools should decide whether to close after consulting with their local health department.

The city had 20 confirmed cases, with another 205 tests came out negative, and 86 tests were pending, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

A 7-year-old girl, who lives in the Bronx tested positive. She is a student at private school, the Westchester Torah Academy, which has been closed since last week. She’s doing well and has been quarantined at home, the mayor said. Her mom, dad, and sisters have all tested negative.

Read the full story

🔗Brooklyn teacher at center of coronavirus scare reveals gaps in NYC response

Brooklyn public school teacher Erin McCarthy learned Friday that she’d tested negative for the coronavirus that’s hit more than 100,000 people across the globe, killing over 3,600.

Read the full story.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is joined by health officials and Chancellor Richard Carranza for an update on the coronavirus. (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)


🔗March 5

🔗Addressing coronavirus fears, chancellor says every NYC school will soon have a nurse

Each New York City school will have a nurse on campus by next week — something that advocates have demanded long before the outbreak raised questions about whether schools are ready to curb the potential spread of the coronavirus.

Read the full story.

🔗March 4

🔗NYC schools scramble to track student and teacher travel amid coronavirus threat

The city’s education department is taking an inventory of school trips as concern about the spread of the coronavirus grows, officials announced Thursday.

The global spread of the virus coincided with a week-long school vacation, Feb. 17-21, during which some students and school employees traveled out of the country. Tracking down those who were abroad could take some time, given the school system’s size.

Read the full story.

🔗As teacher shows signs of coronavirus, mayor says NYC was slow to update travel guidance for school

New York City should have more quickly updated its school-related travel guidance, Mayor Bill de Blasio admitted Wednesday amid the revelation that a teacher who recently traveled to Italy has displayed signs of coronavirus.

Read the full story.

🔗NYC teacher showing signs of coronavirus spent days in the classroom after Italy trip

A New York City public school teacher who vacationed in Italy during the February winter break is set to undergo testing after experiencing possible coronavirus symptoms. She had spent several days last week in a classroom with children before she showed any signs of potential infection.

Read the full story.

🔗March 3

🔗After mixed messages, NYC will not count absences in middle and high school admissions amid coronavirus fear

New York City schools will not consider student attendance and punctuality records in admissions decisions for competitive middle and high schools next year, the city said Wednesday.

The announcement followed an outcry from parents and elected officials who argued the policy encouraged sick children to show up to school amid growing concerns about the virus.

Read the full story.

🔗March 2

🔗Will coronavirus-related absences count against NYC students in admissions? Yes — at least for now

When top city officials began urging families to keep sick children home from school to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, some parents called on the education department to stop using attendance records in school admissions decisions.

Read the full story.

Girls washing hands with soap (JGI/Jamie Grill | Getty Images)
🔗Stay home if you’re sick. Wash hands regularly. In NYC schools, following coronavirus guidance is harder than it sounds.

School bathrooms are not always stocked with soap, and there is little time during the day to repeatedly wash hundreds of children’s hands. Schools that use attendance records in their competitive admissions process may make parents reluctant to keep their children at home even if they’re sick. And for families who work hourly wage jobs, taking off to care for a sick child isn’t always feasible. The city is also facing a shortage of school nurses.

Read the full story.

🔗Feb. 26

🔗No immediate plans to close NYC schools as coronavirus threat escalates, officials say

There are no immediate plans to cancel classes in the nation’s largest school system in the face of growing concern about the coronavirus, officials said Wednesday, urging calm while acknowledging the disease will likely hit the region eventually.

Read the full story.