The closure of public schools starting Thursday, November 19th has no set end date yet though will certainly last through the Thanksgiving break, Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged.

“We will have an update in the next couple of days on the plan to bring back schools, what additional standards will be needed,” he said at his press briefing Wednesday afternoon.

“No one is happy about this decision. We all in fact are feeling very sad about this decision, because so much good work has been put into keeping the schools opened and opening them up to begin with,” de Blasio added.

Earlier in the day via tweet, de Blasio announced the school system would shut down in-person learning and students switched to fully remote learning Wednesday as the city’s COVID-19 positivity rate reached the 3% rolling seven-day average that de Blasio has long said would trigger a systemwide closure.

De Blasio has repeatedly promised schools would close the day the rate got to the 3% seven-day average, calling it part of a “social contract” forged with students, parents and school staff in order to reopen back in September. Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza sent an email Wednesday afternoon to school principals and later families announcing the closure.

In the letter to families, Carranza wrote, "Given recent increases in transmission, we have reached a point in our City’s infection rate that requires all students to transition to remote learning. Beginning Thursday, November 19, all school buildings will be closed, and all learning will proceed remotely for all students, until further notice. You will hear from your principal shortly about next steps for you and your student. Please note that this is a temporary closure, and school buildings will reopen as soon as it is safe to do so."

“I want to emphasize that we are looking at this as a temporary closure. We will get students back in buildings as soon as we can safely,” Carranza said at the briefing. He added that while supply chain issues are delaying the district’s ability to acquire enough devices to distribute for the million students now engaged in full-time remote learning, 40,000 new devices were already en route or being distributed, with another 60,000 devices requested.

One parent who had organized a petition to lobby for de Blasio to loosen the shutdown threshold said she was upset by the order and how the decision was conveyed to the public.

“First, schools should not have shut down because the mayor determined an arbitrary 3% threshold over the summer when almost nothing was known about in-school transmission. We have more and better science now that should guide whether and when schools shut down,” wrote Daniela Jampel of Washington Heights in an email.

“Second, it is unconscionable to tell parents at 2pm that schools will not be open tomorrow. It is offensive to school administrators, it is offensive to parents, and it is offensive to students. Couldn't schools have stayed open through the end of the week? I am now scrambling for what I can do with my children tomorrow,” Jampel wrote. “Finally, there is no evidence that shuttering schools will have anything to do with lowering transmission in the city. Children tomorrow will go to daycare, they will go to their grandparents, they will go to neighbors and friends as their parents head to work. None of these places are safer than schools, and in fact many are more dangerous.”

The school system’s random testing has consistently yielded very low rates—0.19%, according to Carranza during the press conference.

Part of the next reopening will include stricter adherence to the random testing program of all students and staff participating in the in-person learning program. While the Department of Education has said students must bring consent forms agreeing to be tested or ultimately be switched to remote learning, the DOE has not consistently pressured schools to follow its guidelines.

Now, De Blasio said there will be more focus on school testing now: “I want to emphasize testing is going to be crucial to the successful reopening of our schools,” he said.

The messaging on the fate of the city’s schools was muddied by a bewildering and combative press conference that Governor Andrew Cuomo held Wednesday afternoon before de Blasio’s announcement.

Cuomo seemed to announce that state law indicates the city's school system has avoided the 3% closing threshold. “Tomorrow, the schools are open by state law,” the governor said at the press conference in response to questions about whether the city will be able to keep its public school system open. He was informed during the press conference of Carranza's email and said, "that was the agreement, and the agreement should be honored. So, if it is 3% then I understand."

The conflicting messaging underscores the lingering lack of communication and coordination between the state and city. The mayor had scheduled a press conference Wednesday morning that was delayed for hours as Cuomo announced a press conference at 1:30 p.m.

There, the governor declined to clarify exactly if he was ordering any action on the city's schools, saying instead it was always up to local school districts to follow state guidelines: "I've always said, we set initial parameters. And then the school districts picked a percent within those parameters—New York City picked 3%," Cuomo said.

De Blasio said grab-and-go school meals will still be made available for all students, and that the Learning Bridges programs will stay open and prioritize seats for the children of essential workers. In addition, some schools will stay open -- community based organizations that provide pre-K and 3K are exempt from the city’s closure policy.

The closure affects families of some 280,000 students enrolled in blended learning who will be moved to fully remote learning. Students currently enrolled in fully remote learning are not affected. The mayor's decision does not impact non-public schools, as those schools are governed by the state Department of Health guidelines. Meanwhile, the Catholic dioceses reaffirmed that their parochial schools in Brooklyn and Queens would remain open.

De Blasio said Tuesday he believed the aggressive threshold helped reaffirm parents and teachers' trust in the school system reopening.

Back in the summer as the Department of Education planned the reopening, "I said, 'look, we'll set this rigorous standard at three percent. We'll do all these other things we promise to do. You can trust us.' But people were trusting us with their health, with their child's health, we had to show it would work, we have shown it was work, but keeping faith with people that when we set a standard, we mean it," he said at his Tuesday press briefing. "We live by it. It is important."

In July, when de Blasio set a 3% seven-day rolling average of positive COVID-19 tests as the trigger for when public schools would close, the virus positivity rate in New York City had stayed steadily between 1% to 2% for nearly two months.

At the time, the mayor said the metric would prevent another surge of cases: “We're going to be very cautious to not let there be a resurgence. By setting this 3% goal we're sending a message: health and safety first,” he said on July 31st.

Cuomo set a regional threshold of a 9% seven-day rolling average to trigger school shutdowns. While he gave de Blasio a 24-hour deadline to shut down schools in March, the governor had indicated he's leaving the decision up to de Blasio this time though he also supported taking a school-by-school approach.

"The city established the three percent infection rate threshold to make sure that schools did not become centers to spread the coronavirus. Since the three percent rate has been reached, education will continue but all students will be learning remotely," said United Federation of Teachers union president Michael Mulgrew in a statement Wednesday. "Now it’s the job of all New Yorkers to maintain social distance, wear masks and take all other steps to substantially lower the infection rate so school buildings can re-open for in-person instruction."

With reporting from Jessica Gould