Parents Protest New School Closures at New York City Hall

Parents and schoolchildren protested outside New York’s City Hall on Thursday, November 19, after Mayor Bill De Blasio on Wednesday announced all public schools in the city would again close due to rising coronavirus cases.

The decision to shut down the school system on Thursday was made after officials reported a 3 percent test positivity rate over a seven-day rolling average, the New York Times reported. The short notice prompted outcry and anger from parents.

A parent-led group called Keep NYC Schools Open led Thursday’s protest, during which a petition the group says was signed more than 12,500 times was delivered to the mayor’s office.

In a statement issued the morning of the protest, the group said the closures were about “adult politics” rather than safety, and argued that the 3-percent threshold for closures set by the city in July was “arbitrary and outdated.”

The group also pointed to the 0.23-percent positivity results of 140,434 tests conducted by the Department of Education across 3,821 schools from October 9 to November 16.

The organizers warned that remote learning was going to “substantially widen the achievement gap between wealthier/white students and poorer/students of color,” adding that “working families, especially women, rely on schools to stay open.”

New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams slammed the city’s decision, issuing a statement saying the move was not guided by science and was made "without regard for the teachers, parents, students and staff being dragged along by this brinkmanship as the achievement gap widens.

“People are scared and stressed, and need plans and assurances,” Williams wrote. “Today, we have only executives governing by haphazard tweets and combative press conferences, from City Hall and the State Capitol to the White House.”

The protest took place as De Blasio held a press briefing inside City Hall, during which he championed the efforts of New Yorkers to combat the coronavirus to make it “one of the safest places in the country,” but said the city needed to “reset the equation” to limit the second wave of the virus.

Among the complaints leveled against officials was an alleged lack of clear and consistent information on the closures from officials, reports said. Thursday morning, as the protest was underway outside City Hall, Gov Andrew Cuomo and several other northeastern governors issued a joint statement that said “in-person learning is safe when the appropriate protections are in place, even in communities with high transmission rates.” Credit: Marla Diamond via Storyful