Monday, 2 Aug 2021

N.Y.C.’s Schools Shutdown, Explained

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It’s Thursday.

Weather: Mostly sunny, with a high in the mid- to upper 40s.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Nov. 26 (Thanksgiving Day).

This morning, parents across New York City are scrambling to find child care and set up their children for full-time remote instruction, less than a day after learning that public schools would shut because of rising coronavirus cases in the city.

The news was delivered to principals in an email sent by the schools chancellor just after 2 p.m. on Wednesday — as the city recorded a 3 percent test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had delayed his morning news conference for hours, confirmed the news to reporters that afternoon.

[Read more: New York City closes public schools again as virus cases rise.]

The mayor could not give an estimate for when school buildings would reopen.

“Today is a tough day, but this is a temporary situation,” he said.

Here’s what else you need to know:

The shutdown of schools was not unexpected.

Parents and teachers had been watching the city’s test positivity rate steadily increase, dreading the day when it would reach 3 percent. That was the threshold, set by Mr. de Blasio over the summer, for ending in-person classes and requiring fully remote learning.

The schools chancellor, Richard A. Carranza, had recently urged principals to prepare for shutdowns, while Mr. de Blasio encouraged parents to develop backup plans in case schools closed.

The closure was a major setback in New York’s recovery after it was an epicenter of the coronavirus in the spring. Mr. de Blasio, the first big-city mayor in the country to reopen schools, pushed heavily over the summer for in-person classes as part of his plan to revive the city.

The mayor cautioned on Wednesday that schools would not automatically reopen once the seven-day positivity rate dropped below 3 percent. He may wait until community transmission stabilizes at a lower rate to avoid reopening and then having to close again.

Still, the delivery of the news devolved into chaos.

It was a confusing day for parents and educators as the announcement itself was delayed for hours. The mayor’s 10 a.m. news conference was repeatedly pushed back and finally began at 3 p.m.

At a separate news conference earlier in the afternoon, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo shouted at a reporter who asked whether schools would remain open. While he was speaking, The Times reported that schools would close on Thursday.

Mr. de Blasio said he spent much of the morning consulting with Mr. Cuomo on how to reopen schools. They plan to mandate more testing of students and staff members, and to require students to have a permission slip that will allow them to get tested in school buildings.

The closing will be a burden on students and parents.

The sudden change to all-remote learning will disrupt the education of many public school students who had been attending class in person. Many parents depend on their children being in school for at least part of the week in order to work.

Educators and parents had also criticized the city for not improving remote learning even though about 70 percent of children already take online classes full-time.

Some students, including those in homeless shelters, have not received iPads or laptops from the city, and teachers have said that some students struggle to log on.

From The Times

Subway Service Could Be Cut 40% if No Federal Aid Arrives

About That Maligned Christmas Tree (and That Owl) at Rockefeller Center

Even Without Peter King, G.O.P. Retains His House Seat in New York

Why New York Again Trails Almost All States in Counting Votes

Stitched Into Neighborhoods, Dance Studios Battle to Stay Open

Want more news? Check out our full coverage.

The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.

What we’re reading

The rapper who authorities say was captured on a video shooting a flamethrower atop a city bus turned himself in to the police. [Daily News]

New York City sued two Brooklyn landlords who the city said attempted to illegally evict tenants, sparking protests at the property. [Gothamist]

A 52-story tower under construction in the Upper West Side is almost done, unless a judge’s ruling to remove 20 stories from the top stands. [Curbed]

And finally: From the archives

From @nytarchives on Instagram:

The Times staff photographer Arthur Brower took this photo of a subway train on the Pelham Bay line — the No. 6 — on Nov. 19, 1957. The picture ran along with two other photos on the front page of The Times on this day 63 years ago. “New Subway Headlights Assure a Brighter Future for Track-Maintenance Workers,” the headline read.

The headlights were installed to alert maintenance workers of oncoming trains. “The long beams also save platform standees the trouble of craning to see if a train is approaching,” The Times reported.

And yet, more than six decades later, New Yorkers still lean perilously from platforms to peer into the gloom of the tunnels.

It’s Thursday — shine on.

Metropolitan Diary: Animated

Dear Diary:

It was the early 1980s, and I was an aspiring cartoonist from Oregon. I had traveled to New York for a conference where I would be able to show my work and meet people in the industry.

I could barely afford the airfare, but a high school friend who was a conductor with New York City Opera let me sleep on the daybed at his rehearsal studio.

There was a cocktail party on the conference’s opening night, and I walked there to save money. But at the evening’s end, I felt uncomfortable about walking home alone.

Someone pointed toward an older woman in a trench coat who was tidying up.

“Ask Selby,” this person said. “She lives near where you’re staying.”

As we settled into seats on the bus, I asked what Selby did for the cartoonist guild. I assumed she was a secretary.

“I’m vice president,” she replied.

My eyes widened.

“Then you must be a cartoonist!” I said.

“I was an animator with Warner Bros. for years,” she said. “But you might know me better by my husband’s work, ‘Pogo.’”

I realized that I was sitting next to Selby Kelly, an acclaimed animator who had kept Walt Kelly’s comic strip alive after he died.

As we rode though Manhattan, she told me about how they had met and about their lives and careers.

When we arrived at her stop, she turned to me.

“Don’t lose me, Jan,” she said.

I almost did, but years later we were reunited years at a cartoonist party in California. I had finally made it, and Selby had retired to Calistoga.

I still have the original “Pogo” she gave me hanging on my studio wall.

— Jan Eliot

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