New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this past weekend that all schools in New York will be closed by Wednesday, March 18 to Wednesday, April 1 due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. As the two-week mark approaches, the state will reassess whether to extend the school closures further and continue to suspend the 180-day instructional requirement.
“The single most effective way to slow the spread of this virus is to reduce close contacts, and that includes in our schools,” Governor Cuomo said. “I am directing the closure of all schools throughout the state for two weeks as we continue working aggressively to ramp up testing, isolate those who are sick and mitigate the impacts of this virus.”
This comes one day after Nassau County Executive Laura Curran signed an executive order closing all public and private schools in the county for two weeks.
School districts will be required by the state to develop a plan for alternative instructional options, including distance learning, distribution and availability of meals and daycare.
“One of the biggest concerns about closing schools has been potential food insecurity for children who rely on school-provided meals,” Curran said. “We’re working with our school districts to ensure that all students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals continue to receive them through a grab-and-go program.”
The Manhasset School District originally canceled school on Friday, March 13 for Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17 to prepare faculty for a longer hiatus.
“The purpose of this closure is to give our teachers and staff time to finalize their plans for continuity of learning in the event of an extended closure,” Manhasset Superintendent Dr. Vincent Butera said in a statement to families.
Some felt that decision was late and not enough, as surrounding school districts had already canceled future dates of schooling. An online petition was created by Leonora Mui to close the Manhasset Public Schools. The petition received 297 signatures.
“Although children and pregnant women are typically spared from serious complications related to COVID-19 infections, they are known vectors of spread to the community, especially our school staff and grandparents,” read the petition. “A two-day school closure is not enough to address this issue. Let’s not wait to be declared a containment zone.”
St. Mary’s Elementary and High School, on the other hand, canceled school for Friday, March 13. On that same day, St. Mary’s and the Diocese of Rockville Centre announced that students would not come to the school through Friday, March 20. St. Mary’s plans to launch their distant learning initiative on Tuesday, March 17.
“We are taking precautions at every level with increased vigilance in sanitizing all areas of our buildings and refraining from gathering in large groups such as attending church with the entire student body,” St. Mary’s statement said. “Our administration has been working hard to prepare the implementation of distance learning for all students and faculty to maintain classroom instruction and assignments should the schools be mandated to close in response to this quickly evolving situation.”
Manhasset School District and St. Mary’s Elementary and High School both state they do not have a suspected or confirmed case of the coronavirus.
The Manhasset Public Library also announced that it would be closed to the public from March 16 to March 22. A decision to reopen will be made by the library at the end of that period. The library will also waive all fines through Tuesday, March 31. An annual budget hearing and board meeting is still scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 26 at 7 p.m.
“We are in this together, and together we will get through this,” Curran said.