Closure of public schools lies with science, health: Williams

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
Associated Press / Frank Franklin II, file

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said on Wednesday that the decision to close public schools lies with the question of science and health, among other things.

“All day today, as they have for many months, New York City’s parents and principals, teachers and students waited for leadership to explain whether and when the city’s public schools would be closed,” said Williams.  “While they finally have an answer, there is absolutely no leadership present.

“Whether to close schools amid an increase in COVID-19 cases was a question of science and of health,” he added. “Whether to order that closure with less than sixteen hours before it would be enforced and upend the lives of people across the city is a question of common sense and sound management, neither of which has been seen today or throughout much of this pandemic.

“This systemic dysfunction goes far beyond the issue of a three percent threshold, and it is inflicting a trauma on the city,” Williams continued. “If closing schools can meaningfully slow the spread and save lives, then it is a step to consider. But, today, it is one taken without caution, without knowledge of the next step, without regard for the teachers, parents, students and staff being dragged along by this brinkmanship as the achievement gap widens.”

Williams said any closure should come with re-established REC centers for students and parents in greatest need, an investment in effective remote learning, robust family outreach, and “a clear-cut plan to re-open with a phased approach when science and safety dictate.”

“People are scared and stressed, and need plans and assurances,” he said.

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