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Treyger, Brannan join call for school closures amid coronavirus outbreak

March 13, 2020 Alex Williamson
Brooklyn College. AP photo
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One day after Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency in the city amid an outbreak of a novel coronavirus, City Councilmembers Mark Treyger and Justin Brannan joined a growing number of lawmakers calling for a partial or total shutdown of New York City’s public schools.

Treyger, who chairs the Education Committee, announced on Twitter that he had proposed a “summer school” model to the Department of Education that would reduce the number of active public-school sites to only a few per borough, prioritizing childcare for first responders and health care workers.

City Councilmember Justin Brannan threw his support behind school closures Friday.

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“We need to take bold, aggressive action to keep New Yorkers safe and healthy and manage the spread of this virus in our city. In order to keep everyone in our schools – students and teachers – safe, I am calling on the Mayor to close New York City public schools. But we cannot close schools without a real contingency plan to support families and students who rely on our public schools for more than learning, like food, laundry, and heat,” Brannan told the Eagle via email. 

The mayor has said public school closures will be a last resort, as many children rely on schools for meals and other needs.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson came out in support of a total public-school shutdown Friday, tweeting, “It’s time to close our public schools. This isn’t an easy decision, but we must take aggressive measures to stop the spread of #COVID19.”

Brannan tweeted Friday that students who stayed home from school due to the coronavirus outbreak would not have the absence counted against them.

The Archdiocese of New York announced Monday that it would close all elementary schools within its system.

Brooklyn College announced it would close its campus Friday after a faculty member tested positive for the coronavirus. Students at the CUNY school are now finishing the semester remotely.

Brooklyn Occupational Centers, a special education program, also closed four of its schools Friday after a teacher self-reported a coronavirus case.

De Blasio has said he will only close public schools as a last resort, preferring a targeted approach that would temporarily close schools after a confirmed coronavirus case.

“There are three things we want to preserve: schools, mass transit and the health care system. We’re falling back to the next line of defense. We want to protect those three things as much as possible,” the mayor said at a press conference late Thursday.

As of Friday morning, there are 95 confirmed cases of coronavirus in New York City and 328 statewide.

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