Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

New York City schools will only close as a last resort, city officials said Saturday.

New York City schools will only close as a last resort, city officials said Saturday. (Photo: carl_hfser/flickr)

Closing NYC Schools Amid Coronavirus Outbreak a 'Last Resort,' Says Official, Due to 114,000 Homeless Students With Nowhere to Go

"I don't think we're prepared for the ripple effects this could have for the most vulnerable in our society."

Eoin Higgins

In an example of how the coronavirus outbreak is exposing longstanding cracks in U.S. society, New York City schools chancellor Richard A. Carranza said that closing the city's public schools for a prolonged period of time would be a "last resort" because 750,000 low-income students in the city, 114,000 of whom are homeless, rely on schools for food, bathing, and even laundry. 

"Well this is a tragic embarrassment," tweeted Bard College professor Emma Briant.

As the New York Times reported:

Large-scale school closings might mean, for example, that subway conductors and bus drivers must stay home with their children, or that nurses at public hospitals would not be able to come to work, potentially slowing essential city services.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who declared a state of emergency over the disease on Saturday, told reporters Monday that the state would shut down any school across New York with a positive case for 24 hours as a precautionary measure. 

Any school closures in the country could have dire effects on poorer populations, as observers like Times reporter Dana Goldstein pointed out on Twitter.

"I think the main concern I heard from school leaders across the country was about the risk of an overreaction (longterm school closures) that would severely disrupt...pretty much everything, and disproportionately impact poor families," said Goldstein.

Writer and educator Clint Smith noted that nationwide school closures could lead to increased food insecurity for the country's children.

"A reminder that if public schools shut down, millions of children will lose their access to some of the only meals they receive each day," said Smith. "Food banks will become more important, and I've learned the best way to help is not to donate your spare canned goods, it's to donate money."

During Cuomo's press conference Monday, the governor also unveiled a new hand sanitizer being produced in state prisons.

Prisons house among the most in danger communities, as public defender and criminal justice advocate Scott Hechinger pointed out, and are not allowed to use the product they are producing. 

"As of today people in N.Y. jails and prisons are not allowed to use hand sanitizer," said Hechinger. "Alcohol content means it's contraband. Can't use it. Loved ones can't send it. But those same people incarcerated by N.Y. are getting paid 65 cents per hour to manufacture it!"

The effects of the coronavirus on the U.S., tweeted CBS News reporter Grace Segers, could be devastating.

"I don't think we're prepared for the ripple effects this could have for the most vulnerable in our society," said Segers.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'A Basic Human Right': Bowman, Markey Unveil Affordable Energy Bill

Sen. Ed Markey called the proposal "the ambitious and comprehensive legislation we need to help ensure the health and safety of American families and support a just transition away from fossil fuel consumption."

Julia Conley ·


Heavily Polluted Louisiana Community Asks EPA to Step In

"Louisiana has failed to protect fenceline communities, including St. John residents, from the harms of highly polluting facilities," said one local advocate.

Kenny Stancil ·


500K Jobs Lost, Starvation Looms as US Holds Afghan Funds Hostage

Sen. Bernie Sanders urged the Biden administration "to immediately release billions in frozen Afghan government funds to help avert this crisis, and prevent the death of millions of people."

Brett Wilkins ·


Senate Panel Approves Antitrust Bill to Rein in Big Tech

"A bipartisan group of senators just stated with a clear voice that Big Tech is too powerful."

Jake Johnson ·


Jamaal Bowman Arrested Alongside Other Voting Rights Protesters

"In the tradition of the late Rep. John Lewis, Jamaal got himself into some good trouble."

Andrea Germanos ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo