Plagued with bad instinctual choices since the beginning of the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio took another misstep this weekend, making a broad declaration about school closures.
The mayor said in a "painful" announcement on Saturday morning that schoolchildren in the Big Apple would not return to the classroom until the beginning of the next school year in September – at the earliest. De Blasio attributed his decision, in part, to conversations he'd had with White House Coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci.
"He was so clear about how important keeping the schools closed would be in our overall strategy," Hizzoner recounted. Before the day's end, however, de Blasio's superior, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reassured city residents that the mayor did not wield the power to make such a decision.
"There has been no decision on schools,” Gov. Cuomo said during his daily press briefing. He further characterized de Blasio's bombshell announcement as nothing more than "opinion." Cuomo then twisted the knife and called back the contentious closure of NYC schools, something that most felt took far too long for de Blasio to act on. The governor made the ultimate call to keep more than a million children home to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“He didn’t close them, and he can’t open them," Cuomo said.
De Blasio's now-notorious balk at closing schools drew ire from the community and the nation as worried citizens looked at the staggering rate of infection being reported by the nation's largest city. The state-wide closure of schools finally happened on March 15th, weeks after many less affected states and cities closed their own.
At the time, de Blasio expressed concern over childcare for essential workers and meals for displaced school children. He echoed no such concern when making the blanket semester-ending announcement on Saturday. Cuomo noted the lack of logic in a ban that stretched through the next 60 days. Cuomo also noted that closing schools in the city alone would be less logical if the surrounding areas were not on the same schedule.
"It’s not going to be decided in the next few days, because we don’t know,” the governor said. “I can’t tell you what June is going to look like. I can’t tell you what May is going to look like. But I can tell you it will be a metropolitan-wide decision."
Cuomo, a liberal Democrat, has received bipartisan praise for his actions and communication in the face of the pandemic which has besieged New York more than any other part of the US. Even President Trump has consistently acknowledged Cuomo's efforts during the crisis. To the contrary, de Blasio has been skewered by New Yorkers and by voices across the nation for his lackluster and off-the-cuff response to the virus. He was particularly critiqued for going to a YMCA gym in Brooklyn after ordering the closure of all gyms in New York City and encouraging New Yorkers to ignore the virus and head to the movies just prior.
After Cuomo's public tongue-lashing overextended school closure this weekend, however, de Blasio dug his heels in during an interview with Al Sharpton.
"I’ll always work with the state of New York, I’ll always work with the governor,” the mayor said. But he remained clear that he was not beholden to "another elected official.” He also said he knows that high school seniors suddenly pulled from school with grades in flux are concerned about graduation with no return to their teachers.
"If we really pull together, we can get kids a quality education, we can make sure our seniors can still graduate," he said later in the evening. “I have to do what I think is right to stop the coronavirus from holding the city in its grip to make sure we get out of this horrible moment in our city’s history and move forward."
Distance learning has been a consistent complaint of parents across the country who feel unprepared to keep their kids engaged in learning while trying to understand public school curriculum. Some parents have opted to pull their kids from public school systems for the freedom to homeschool them without the oversight of government-controlled learning.
New Yorker parents and students are still left in a state of uncertainty as the mayor and governor continue to feud over what is best for NYC.