Coronavirus school closures shorten spring break to just two days

New York City teachers and students will have only two days of spring break this year due to the statewide school shutdown to stem the new coronavirus, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew told members on Tuesday night.

Teachers will be off April 9 – 10, during part of Passover and on Good Friday. But classes will resume the Monday after Easter on April 13, a week earlier than planned, Mulgrew informed members. 

“Once again we are being asked and called on to say, ‘We need you, we need you to be engaged that week with your students, with their families,’” he said in a video message posted to the union’s website. “Because the last thing we want is for people to feel that the time is off, the weather is getting better and people going out once again and spreading this virus.”

It’s unclear what teaching and learning will look like after the shortened break. Mulgrew said the union is working with the city education department to create a “special week of family services and support.”

The country’s largest school district was expected to go on break from April 9 to 17. Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for school buildings to be closed through at least April 20, the first day students were expected back from vacation, and potentially much longer due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The New York State education department this week released clarification that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order shutting down schools through at least April 15 also requires school districts to continue remote learning during the closure — even if spring break had been slated for that time. 

Mulgrew’s announcement followed a day of uncertainty about what the state’s directive meant for New York City schools. Teachers took to social media to blast the possibility of losing their break and an online petition quickly sprung up. Teachers across the city say they have been putting in extra long hours to transition to digital instruction, a shift that happened in less than a week’s time.

Liat Olenick, an elementary teacher in Brooklyn, said she has been working 12 hours days — and some students and parents are feeling burned out, too. 

“The transition to remote learning has been incredibly labor intensive,” she said. “People need a break, and that is true for kids who are now spending hours a day looking at laptops. It’s definitely true for families, and it’s true for school staff.”