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New York City, The Largest School District In The Country, To Close Its Schools

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Sunday that New York City would start closing its schools this week in an attempt to combat the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. He said public schools on Long Island and Westchester County would also close. 

New York City public schools serve over 1.1 million students. It is by far the largest school system in the country, by hundreds of thousands of students.

Nearly three-quarters of students in New York City schools are considered economically disadvantaged. The closures could pose a particular hardship for these families. Parents who cannot telecommute for work may have to scramble to find child care, or give up wages. Many families rely on schools to provide their children with breakfast and lunch. But Cuomo said some buildings would stay open to serve the neediest children. 

The city had previously been closing specific schools for 24 hours if a student or staff member was confirmed to have the coronavirus. There are 1,866 public schools in New York City, including public charter schools. The mayor and governor had held off on closing the schools, even under pressure, calling it a last resort.

“We are going to fight tooth and nail to protect our school system,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Thursday.

Around the country, a growing number of school districts have been closing in recent days. On Friday, the second-largest school district in the nation, the Los Angeles Unified School District, announced it would be closing for at least two weeks. More than a dozen states including Ohio, Maryland and Pennsylvania have also announced that they would be shutting down schools for several weeks. As of Saturday, 57,000 schools nationwide had closed ― affecting at least 25.8 million students, according to a count by EdWeek.

The New York City teachers union ― the United Federation of Teachers ― has been urging the city to shut down schools, saying keeping schools open “poses a greater lasting threat than the disruption that will result from school closings.”

“We don’t suggest this lightly. We understand the immense disruption this will create for our families,” said a statement from UFT President Michael Mulgrew on Friday. “But right now more than a million students and staff crisscross the city every day on their way to schools, putting themselves and others at risk of exposure and increasing the likelihood of bringing exposure into their homes and communities.”

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance saying closing schools for two to four weeks at a time does not appear to impact the rate of the virus’s spread. However, it said that longer-term closures ― eight weeks or more ― could have some impact.

Keep up with the latest updates on the coronavirus at our live blog.

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