New York City schools will no longer have spring break, including any time off for Passover and Good Friday, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced Friday.
The Department of Health also ordered the closure of all daycares except for the Regional Enrichment Centers run by the DOE for the children of essential personnel.
The measures are to help the city combat the spreading coronavirus pandemic, Carranza said in a letter posted on the Department of Education website Friday.
"For the health and wellbeing of all New Yorkers, the City and the State are in agreement that schools must continue to offer remote learning, including during days that were previously scheduled as breaks. As a result, our schools will continue with remote learning through the time originally scheduled for Spring Recess," Carranza said.
"We know that many New Yorkers plan to observe religious holidays on April 9th and 10th. Any students and school staff who individually wish to observe those holidays may do so. However, these days will not be considered “days off” for the school system, and remote learning activities will continue for students who are not observing the holidays."
Chalkbeat reported that Carranza told staff they can use their accrued leave to observe Passover and Good Friday in a separate letter sent to teachers: "Staff may request time off for religious observance and use accrued leave for any time taken. If staff request to take days, these requests should be granted in accordance with Chancellor's Regulation C-606 and applicable collective bargaining agreements/contracts. Please note that April 9-10 will not be considered “days off” for the school system."
The United Federation of Teachers union blasted the schedule change; UFT President Michael Mulgrew said on the union's Facebook page:
Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided to keep New York City public schools open for remote learning on Thursday, April 9, and Friday, April 10, even though those days are major religious holidays. With this step, Mayor de Blasio shows that he does not recognize just how hard you have been working during these stressful and anxiety-filled times. Tell the mayor what you are seeing and experiencing every day and how you have transformed teaching and learning.
Last week, the UFT union had announced that the scheduled spring break from April 9th through the 17th would be whittled down to two days off on April 9th and 10th.
The decision has riled educators who say they and students all desperately need a break:
Carranza said teachers and staff will receive four additional leave days to make up for the loss of spring break.
"Many of our educators are parents themselves, and this has been an especially challenging time for them. That is why we are looking for ways to offer students and school staff with more opportunities to reset and recharge in the weeks ahead," Carranza said in his letter to educators. "We have finalized arrangements with our union partners at this time to provide four additional leave days to school-based staff who otherwise would have had Spring Recess... While it will be difficult for us now, I know we all can do our part by continuing to provide meaningful opportunities for learning, growth, and engagement with our students throughout the previously scheduled Spring Recess."
The DOE has also decided to stop using Zoom for remote learning after criticisms surfaced over the platform's security and privacy issues, Chalkbeat reported Saturday. “Based on the DOE’s review of those documented concerns, the DOE will no longer permit the use of Zoom at this time,” a memo sent to educators said. Instead, the 1.1 million students in the public school system will use Microsoft Teams.
Meanwhile, the DOH's Bureau of Child Care Assistant Commissioner Simone Hawkers sent a letter to parents Friday announcing that all "New York City child care centers and school-based child care programs are required to close before April 6th, 2020, under Order of the New York City Board of Health."
Hawkins said that the DOH will notify child care programs when they can reopen in the future.