The United Federation of Teachers has informed students and educators in New York that spring break will be four days long this year in an effort to continue remote learning plans during the coronavirus pandemic.
Schools will have a break from April 9th to April 12th over the Easter and Passover holidays, but return on April 13th for "a special week of family service and support," UFT President Michael Mulgrew said in a video message to members Tuesday.
The details of the special programming were not immediately available Wednesday. Mulgrew said "we are working now with the DOE to develop plans for that week, and we will communicate them to you as we finalize them."
The change in schedule comes after Governor Andrew Cuomo had issued an order that all schools in the state switch to remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic until April 15th. The governor's office clarified Tuesday that this means proceeding with remote learning through the scheduled spring break, which for New York City public schools was scheduled for April 9th through the 17th.
"State health experts say the next two weeks will be critical in determining whether this public health crisis lasts for another six weeks or another six months. Governor Cuomo believes public schools can play a critical role in keeping kids engaged in learning at home during this pivotal period so the virus does not have the opportunity to spread more widely in our communities," Mulgrew said in the UFT message. "That is why he is using the emergency powers that he legally has to keep schools open during spring breaks throughout the state."
"The Executive Order requires schools use available vacation and snow days during this extraordinary time. After some time to establish and begin implementing distance learning plans, educators are executing these plans at high levels and it is critical to continue educational time for our students. More importantly, we need to flatten the curve to stop the spread of this virus and continuing distance instruction is one key way to do it. This is an all-hands on deck situation and we appreciate all the work of educators all across the state to help our students get through this. We will reevaluate this decision every two weeks and as facts and circumstances change, we will adapt," said Cuomo spokesperson Jason Conwall as reported by NY1.
The city's Department of Education said they are reviewing the policy. Schools chancellor Richard Carranza tweeted Wednesday "We know there are many questions about Spring Break, scheduled for April 9-17, 2020. We thank our families & staff for their patience as we work through yet another unprecedented decision that’s emerged from this equally unprecedented crisis. We will share specific guidance soon."
"After the Governor's March 27, 2020 Executive Order extending school closures across the State until April 15, the State Education Department communicated that districts continue to provide remote instruction between April 1 and April 14, even if the district is scheduled to be on spring break. We are reviewing how this affects New York City," DOE spokesperson Miranda Barbot told NY1.
The decision has already angered hundreds of educators who say they're exhausted, overwhelmed and that teachers and students all need some time off.
An English teacher at Brooklyn Tech High School started a petition to reinstate spring break that has already been signed by more than 17,000 people.
Mulgrew's message thanked the UFT members for "extraordinary work in very difficult circumstances."
"I know it's not fair, but it's not fair for a lot of people right now," he added.
The UFT is scheduled to hold a town hall for its members Wednesday afternoon -- we'll bring you updates.
With reporting from Jessica Gould/WNYC