Parents in New York City are outraged that public schools remain open amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak, which, so far has infected more than 300 residents in the state, including nearly 100 confirmed cases in the Big Apple itself.
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City officials on Thursday declared a state of emergency as the virus spread.
Still, Mayor Bill de Blasio, who signed off on the declaration, thinks it important that schools stay operational, even as institutions across the country are temporarily closing their doors.
“The schools are where kids are safe,” the mayor said in an interview with FOX 5, adding that schools are a critical resource to keep the city running. “We need people to show up at work. We need our public servants to be where they need to be to take care of folks.”
That rationale isn’t enough to quell the concerns of many parents who are opting to keep their children home, though. Vanessa Colon, who is keeping her young daughter, Veronica, home is one of them.
She said she is concerned about her child’s safety.
“I believe the Department of Education has not been proactive in protecting their employees,” Colon told FOX Business. “So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and keep my daughter home where I know she is safe.”
Colon, who says she is a government employee, herself, and is working remotely until further notice, said she plans to keep her daughter home as long as she can. And she is not the only one.
One teacher in the city reported there are more than 200 students absent.
The New York City of Education did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
While schools ranging from suburban districts to large universities in New York and New Jersey are shutting down in response to the outbreak, none of the city’s roughly 1,800 public schools have taken the same approach, as the mayor believes that it is a last resort.
He argued that, in a district where about 700,000 children are low-income and rely on school for services like breakfast and lunch, it would not be wise to take that benefit away.
“When kids go to school, it's not just about their education, which I don't want to interrupt,” de Blasio said. “I don't want to see kids miss weeks or months of school. A lot of kids who are less-advantaged really depend on the schools for meals.”
"We need our public servants to be where they need to be to take care of folks. We have to have a workforce in our hospitals, in our clinics, our first responders. We need them, especially in this moment. They need their kids to be in school so they can show up to work. This is a big part of the equation.”
The mayor did leave the door open to a possible shutdown if conditions worsen. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that if a student tested positive for COVID-19, their school would be closed for an initial 24-hour period while health officials assess the situation.
About 23,000 students in the Northshore School District in Seattle are taking classes from home. Brands like Amazon, Apple and Microsoft are encouraging people to work remotely. And a number of outdoor festivals like Coachella have been canceled or pushed back.