Positive cases of the coronavirus have prompted New York City leaders to close more than 100 school buildings on Monday, News 4 has learned.
The Department of Education plans to close 128 buildings, which are made up of classrooms for younger grades attending in person as well as those in Learning Bridges and early childhood daycare.
A map of building closures due to coronavirus cases can be found on the city's website.
City Hall says there is no plan for a larger district-wide closure of buildings while state data for the city holds below the 9 percent benchmark that would trigger an automatic closure by the state.
New York City, like the state's other regions, has seen a significant rise in case numbers and deaths amid a winter surge of the coronavirus. As of Sunday, New York state's coronavirus dashboard showed New York City's seven-day rolling average at 6.24 percent. Despite the concerning number of COVID cases following the long holiday break, Mayor Bill de Blasio insists keeping schools open is important and safe.
"About 100,000 students, teachers, staff got tested across the entire school system ... the positivity level was .68 percent. Much, much lower than anything we're seeing anywhere else in New York City," de Blasio said. "So, the safest place to be in New York City of course is our public schools."
Gov. Andrew Cuomo deferred on school closures, saying it was up to local districts to decide what is best, assuming that schools are below the 9 percent threshold. The president of the city's largest teachers union urged City Hall to take it step further Monday, saying that the city should close schools if that threshold is met, no matter the rate in the community.
"Using that measure, if the community infection rate in the city hits 9 percent, the safe thing to do is to close the schools, even if the in-school rate is lower," United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said. "Safety comes first — as shown by the fact that hundreds of our elementary schools are closed temporarily every day because the virus has been detected."
Mulgrew went on to urge making the COVID vaccine available to all school personnel, saying that "bureaucratic snarls and procedural delays" risk the lives of students, staff and their families.
Kindergarten and elementary school students were allowed to go back to in-person learning in early December after the city shuttered school buildings for the second time.
Middle and high school students have been doing remote learning and still have no timeline on when they can return to class, through the mayor has said he hopes middle schoolers get back in late January.