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Many Still Questioning Decision To Keep NYC Schools Open During Snowstorm

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – New York City public school students were in class again Friday, a day after the mayor’s decision not to close schools triggered outrage.

As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, many parents on Friday were still questioning Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to keep public schools open as a snowstorm caused whiteout conditions on Thursday.

Students and parents were faced with gusting winds and blowing snow during Thursday’s storm that brought nearly 10 inches of snow to the city. Almost every other school district in the region was closed.

And to top it off, during a brief lull in the storm during Mayor de Blasio’s news conference Thursday, schools Chancellor Carmen Farina said, “It’s absolutely a beautiful day out there right now.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo had declared a state of emergency for New York, including the city. But he tried not to pile on when asked on a radio show about keeping schools open.

“These decisions — you get second guessed either way,” Cuomo said. “Welcome to the job. That’s why we get the big bucks.”

Many parents and students were not pleased at all with the decision.

“I thought it was a bad decision, atrocious,” one parent said. “I think the mayor needs to do a little more research before deciding it’s OK for schools to be open.”

“I was really shocked,” said one student.

“I wasn’t a fan,” said parent John Connors.

Some teachers were also frustrated.

“I had to take a sick day,” said teacher Chris Miller. “My son’s school was closed. Every school by me was closed.”

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew also said weather made it unsafe for students, parents and staff to get to school, calling the decision to open schools “a mistake.”

“I understand the desire to keep schools open. The only thing that trumps that is safety,” Mulgrew said in a statement Thursday. “Having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted.”

Only about 44 percent of city public school students made it to school Thursday.

But de Blasio and schools Chancellor Farina said pat it was the right decision.

The mayor said many parents depend on schools to watch over their children while they are at work and made the call Wednesday night not to cancel classes, saying the storm came in faster than the National Weather Service predicted.

The administration said they take several factors into account when deciding whether or not to close schools and cited Thursday’s warmer temperatures and the fact that mass transit was operating well.

“We knew, based on the reports of the National Weather Service, that we could have as little as three inches of snow on ground by the time kids walked in the door of our schools and we could have more – we could have four or five or more,” de Blasio told reporters Thursday. “It was a gray situation.”

The National Weather Service declined to comment on the mayor’s remark Thursday, but told CBS 2 the forecast was “upgraded to a winter storm warning on Tuesday night” saying New York City could get six to 12 inches of snow.

CBS 2’s Lonnie Quinn agreed with that forecast.

“When we go to, say, about 10 hours before the storm, they had bumped up to 8 to 12, because we saw more cold air out there,” Quinn said.

But despite all the criticism, some New Yorkers said they were glad the schools stayed open.

“I was fine with it, actually,” said Ken Drake, “because it’s local. We all walk here.”

“For me personally, it made no difference,” added Sarit Hoffman. “I think that for some families who are working, maybe they have no other choice.”

Mayor de Blasio cancelled a scheduled press conference Friday, and his office said it had no “immediate update to provide” on the weather.

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