De Blasio plan to close NYC schools for rest of school year just 'opinion;' no decision yet, Cuomo says

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo said only he has the "legal authority" to keep schools closed, and Mayor Bill de Blasio's announcement Saturday that New York City public schools will be closed for the rest of the academic year was merely an "opinion."

Cuomo said the decision needed to be made on a statewide, and ideally on a regional basic.

"So whatever we, do we do all at the same time. So I understand the mayor's position, which is he wants to close them until June. And we may do that. But we're going to do it in a coordinated sense with the other localities. It makes no sense for one locality to take an action that's not coordinated with the others," Cuomo said.

When pressed about if the mayor's decision is invalid, Cuomo said it was his "legal authority in this situation."

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Mayor de Blasio announced Saturday the closing of New York City public schools for the rest of the academic year

"That's why, when I closed them, we closed them statewide," the Governor said. "It was not just New York City that we closed. We closed at that same time the island and the northern suburbs, and then we coordinated in all of upstate."

Cuomo said it's not clear when the decision to close schools for the remainder of the school year will be made.

"It's not going to be decided in the next few days because we don't know. I can't tell you what June is going to look like. I can't tell you what May is going to look like," Cuomo said.

Cuomo's position was echoed by Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey, who said the fate of schools for the rest of the school year should be made in "harmony" with the tri-state region.

Freddi Goldstein, the mayor's press secretary, stood by de Blasio's decision in a tweet.

"The Governor's reaction to us keeping schools closed is reminiscent of how he reacted when the Mayor called for a shelter in place. We were right then and we're right now. Schools will remain closed, just like how we eventually - days later - moved to a shelter in place model," she tweeted.

Earlier, De Blasio said it would not be viable or safe to bring schools back as the crisis continues to churn in New York, the epicenter of the outbreak.

That leaves more than 1.1 million children at home learning remotely in the hopes of curbing the spread of coronavirus. The state already closed all schools through the end of April, and other districts around the country had decided to stay closed through the end of the academic year.

Online education, however, will continue.

De Blasio spoke of the trauma that New York City kids have endured during this crisis.

"It's been a tough, tough time," de Blasio said. De Blasio said social distancing is working, and now is not the time to stop it. Indeed, the stay-home strategy is "the best way forward to protect all of us," de Blasio said.

"If we brought kids back for a few weeks, it wouldn't add that much academically. The risk simply did not outweigh the reward," de Blasio said. "It just proved there was not a clear reason on what we would gain to help out kids but the challenges and the problems were very, very clear. And we knew there was a clear danger that if we came back some schools would have to close because of individual cases of coronavirus, and it would create so much disruption and confusion."

The plan now is to reopen schools in September. De Blasio announced a five-step plan to serve students and the system:

1.) Get "internet enabled digital devices" to facilitate remote learning by the end of
2.) Expand parent help line and tech support hours and staffing
3.) Launch new online activities and programs
4.) Graduate seniors
5.) Prepare system for opening in September and address the learning losses children have sustained.

United Federation of Teachers President President Michael Mulgrew said he agreed with the decision to keep schools closed.

"Keeping school buildings closed is unquestionably the right decision. Learning continues. Thanks to the efforts of our educators, remote learning is working in New York City," he tweeted.


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