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."

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 need your help.

Support progressive journalism.

Common Dreams is not your average news site. We don't survive on clicks or advertising dollars. We rely entirely on your support. And without it, our independent progressive journalism simply wouldn’t exist. Every gift of every amount matters.

Join the fight and support our common dreams today.

Advocates Cheer VA Move to Offer Trans Vets Gender Confirmation Surgery

"Every veteran deserves to have access to the health care that they need, and the VA is working to make sure that includes transgender veterans as well."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·

'Bolsonaro Out!': Massive Protests as Brazil's Covid-19 Death Toll Tops 500,000

"We are on the street to defend our country, our people, our lives, our culture, our education, our economy. We can no longer die of Covid."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·

Summit Participants Embrace 'Vaccine Internationalism' to End Pandemic

"Our goal is simple: to end the pandemic as quickly as possible by securing Covid-19 vaccines for all," says the coordinator of Progressive International's four-day virtual summit.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·

As Iran Elects New President, Experts Urge Biden to Rejoin Nuclear Deal, Lift Sanctions

"The Biden administration must remain resolute and seek a break from the disastrous conditions that helped contribute to this result."

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·

UN General Assembly Condemns Myanmar Junta Violence, Urges Arms Embargo

Member nations voted 119-1 in favor of the resolution, which also calls for a return to the country's fragile democracy.

Brett Wilkins, staff writer ·