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New York City turns to remote learning as it shuts schools due to coronavirus

All schools in New York City are to close their doors from Monday, March 16 until at least April 20 — with classes to go online-only for weeks or longer.

The measure, announced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Sunday, March 15, is part of efforts to tackle the spread of the coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19.

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New York City operates the largest public school system in the U.S., serving more than one million students.

To ensure children can keep up with their education, the mayor’s office said plans are being put in place to launch remote learning for K-12 students from March 23. The city said it is currently “working on providing technology and connectivity to all students.” This could include the provision of laptops or tablets if the student doesn’t already have such equipment, as well as assistance with internet connections if required.

But the short-notice closures could cause chaos as some parents scramble to organize child care, with single-parent families, front-line health workers with children, and households where both parents work among those facing the greatest challenge.

The city is offering to help some of these groups with grab-and-go breakfast and lunch for students until April 8, and the opening of dozens of “enrichment centers” across all five boroughs. But whether such assistance will be enough remains to be seen.

“As we learn more about COVID-19 every day, we are keeping every possible option on the table to keep New Yorkers safe,” de Blasio said in a statement released on Sunday. “That’s why we are asking the people of our City to make hard choices as we introduce more restrictive measures to create greater social distancing — including the temporary closure of our school buildings. We all need to change our lives, in ways both big and small, to keep each other safe.”

At a press conference held on Sunday, de Blasio suggested the closedown could even last until the end of June. “We may actually have to go out for the whole school year, which is just extraordinarily painful,” he told reporters.

Responding to the decision, Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza said: “The health and safety of our students and families remains our top priority, and we are committed to providing instructional opportunities for all of our students,” adding, “We know that millions of New Yorkers depend on our schools for education, but also so much more, and we will be supporting each of them during this time.”

New York City’s decision to close its public schools followed growing pressure from parents and the city’s teachers union, and is the latest in a growing number of school closures across the U.S. Starting toward the end of last week, closures have been ordered in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Washington D.C., among other places.

Similar action is being taken by a growing number of countries around the world. Japan, a country with a population of 127 million people, shut its schools for the whole of March, turning a two-week spring break into one lasting a month. Students have been told to stay at home, though no nationwide remote-learning measures have been put in place.

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