NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) —New York City public schools will switch to all-remote learning starting Thursday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Wednesday afternoon that the city’s seven day average hit 3%, triggering the switch.
“New York City has hit exactly 3.0% and as a result we do need to close our schools for the coming days,” de Blasio said.
After delaying his daily press briefing by five hours, checking and double checking the city’s COVID infection rate, de Blasio announced school closures.
WATCH: Mayor Bill de Blasio Announces NYC Public Schools Going To All-Remote Learning
“The teachers have given us a lot of preparatory material. A whole lot of textbooks in the backpack. I guess we’re ready, but we’re not really ready,” said parent Lee Billings.
Parents and school leaders were already put on notice as the coronavirus infection rate inched closer to the 3% threshold. That measurement was established in the summer with the teacher’s union in order to reach an agreement to open schools in the first place.
New York City has reached the 3% testing positivity 7-day average threshold. Unfortunately, this means public school buildings will be closed as of tomorrow, Thursday Nov. 19, out an abundance of caution.
We must fight back the second wave of COVID-19.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 18, 2020
But inside schools, the infection rate is well below half a percent.
“If we use a hard and fast light switch on and off I wonder if we will be back before 2021,” said parent Jennifer Tuttle.
Some 300,000 students attend school in person. It’s a great relief to parents, who now have to juggle with complete remote learning.
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“Who is going to have the bad work day? Who is going to have the bad work week? And we swap,” Billings said.
Kindergarten teacher Jerry Gambichler left PS 166 with extra supplies, and unclear about when he will return to the classroom.
“To hear it now and not have a plan ahead of time to realize that, go home, don’t come tomorrow,” he said.
Schools will be closed at least until after Thanksgiving.
Watch Aundrea Cline-Thomas’ report —
There’s renewed pressure to change the 3% threshold. But the teachers union doesn’t appear to be willing to budge.
“It was put forth by the city’s doctors, and confirmed by the doctors we are working with, that that is the appropriate number,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said.
Testing in schools will be central to reopening, but other than that the city and state have not come together to come up with a plan.
“We have real work to do, which I think we can do quickly to put together those standards… and action plan to make them come to pass,” de Blasio said.
Watch: UFT President Michael Mulgrew On All-Remote Learning Decision
“Now it’s the job of all New Yorkers to maintain social distance, wear masks and take all other steps to substantially lower the infection rate so school buildings can re-open for in-person instruction,” Mulgrew said in a statement.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday the plan for reopening is still unclear.
Outside New York City, schools in orange zones can reopen after four days if students and staff are tested upon return.
Cuomo said Wednesday that system will not work in the city because of “volume.”
“If New York City hits 3%, it makes it an orange zone. If New York City wanted to reopen schools, we’d have to design a different formula for New York City, because by volume, we couldn’t test every student in New York City,” he said.
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“I’m sad about this decision because so much good work has been put into keeping the schools open, and opening them up to begin win, let’s start there,” de Blasio said at an afternoon press conference. “But we set a very clear standard and we have to stick to that standard.
“We intend to come back and come back as quickly as possible,” he added.
WATCH: Gov. Andrew Cuomo Gives Coronavirus Briefing
De Blasio said in order for the school system to reopen it will have to meet an even higher health standard and testing will be more important than ever.
“I want to emphasize that testing will be crucial to the successful reopening of our schools,” the mayor said. “Everyone has to get engaged even more in testing. I guarantee you that part of that plan will be an even heavier emphasis on testing. Therefore, I want to say to everyone in our school communities, starting with parents and kids, we need to get those testing consent forms in, and even as we are in this moment of pause, we need to come back we need everyone to get those testing consent forms in, so we can get into an even deeper testing regime.”
Harlem 11th grader Cariana Jordan says she finds it hard to focus in remote classes.
“Now that everything’s going completely remote, it’s like, so who’s all getting education?” she said.
Tens of thousands of students are still without necessary equipment.
“I just think the mayor rushed it,” father O’Brien Morris told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.
We first met Morris earlier this month when his ninth grade son told us he can’t log into class with the city-issued laptop from inside the Brooklyn shelter where they live.
Morris says that hasn’t changed.
“He started still getting locked out of the system. He had to log back in, he had to reset the device, so we’re still having a lot of issues it with,” he said.
“A large number of students, seven, eight months now into the pandemic, still lack the necessary equipment they need to engage in learning in a sustained, meaningful, high-quality way,” said Raysa Rodriguez, with FHC.
Sixty thousand students don’t have the devices they need for remote learning.
Chancellor Richard Carranza says there is a supply problem.
“The issue continues to be the supply side issue, so New York City, along with every school system in America, probably in the world, is ordering devices from every manufacturer,” he said.
The district is expecting to receive and distribute devices for 40,000 students this week.
Teachers will be preparing paper packets for students without access to computers and tablets.
“If they’re not giving us the right devices that we need with the right material that we need, then there’s no hope for us kids nowadays. There’s no hope,” Cariana said.
Additionally, grab-and-go meals are available at schools from 9 a.m. to noon on weekdays.