Public and charter schools in New York City and across the state have been ordered to cancel the scheduled April spring break and instead continue to provide remote instruction to students amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Post has learned.
The state Education Department said in a memo sent to school districts Monday, “Districts must continue to provide remote instruction for students, meals for students, and child care for essential workers every weekday between April 1, 2020 and April 14, 2020, even if the district is scheduled to be on spring break during that time.”
In New York City, public school students and teachers were scheduled to be off from April 9 to 17.
But teachers union president Michael Mulgrew sent a note to members Tuesday night explaining that they would have April 9th and 10th off but would be pressed into service the following week.
“The governor put out an executive order saying that he wants schools to remain in remote learning process throughout spring break,” Mulgrew said in an accompanying video message. “And I know that many of you are upset and you feel that it isn’t fair.”
But Mulgrew stressed that teachers are now manning the front lines in the coronavirus crisis along with the city’s first responders and healthcare workers.
“We are now entering into the critical phase of this crisis where it’s going to be decided in the next three weeks if this is going to be six more weeks or six more months,” he said. “Now we’re being asked to step up even more than what we have already been doing and I think we have to embrace this challenge.”
The union chief added that officials were concerned that detaching kids from their schools over break could lead to social distancing problems.
“The last thing we want is for people to feel that the time is off, the weather is getting better and people are going out once again and spreading this virus,” he said. “People have recognized that what we are doing has now become a critical lifeline into every family.”
Teachers across the city said they were stunned by the sudden turn of events and argued that they were in dire need of a respite.
“This has been a hard time for everyone,” a Brooklyn elementary school teacher said. “I think we were looking forward to that time to regroup and gather ourselves for the rest of the year.”
Some parents also started an online petition to keep the spring break holiday intact.
But Mulgrew urged teachers to recognize that workers across the city – especially those in healthcare – were being asked to go above and beyond in keeping the city’s fabric from ripping amidst the spiraling pandemic.
“I know it’s not fair,” he said “But it’s not fair what’s going on all throughout our communities.”
State Education Department officials said scuttling spring recess was not their idea. They said they’re merely complying with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s COVID-19 executive order to have educators continue distance learning while keeping physical school buildings largely empty to help stem the viral outbreak.
Cuomo’s executive order said that school districts would not suffer any loss in school aid for failing to meet the 180-day session requirement as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
But the governor’s order also said, “School districts must continue plans for alternative instructional options, distribution and availability of meals, and child care, with an emphasis on serving children of essential workers, and continue to first use any vacation or snow days remaining.”
A city Department of Education spokesperson confirmed the edict, adding, “We are reviewing how this affects New York City.”
But parents are already starting a petition to force officials to honor the spring recess.