Around 120,000 kids are either homeless or struggling and they depend on schools for social services.
Last year, the Advocates for Children of New York released a sobering statistic; around 114,000 kids were without their own homes in 2019, making it the fourth year in a row that the number was above 100,000. That means hundreds of thousands of kids depend on school as more than just a place for education. It's a place where they can get three warm meals a day, a place where medical care is available, and where they can even clean their dirty laundry. These are all vital services that are necessary for their health and well-being. Many of these kids come from families where their parents work jobs without paid time off, so the option of staying at home with parents isn't readily available. A single snow day closure could negatively effect thousands of people.
And, if the schools close due to the Coronavirus outbreak, those kids will be in desperate need. The schools are likely to stay open, even if the Coronavirus outbreak goes even wider. Richard A. Carranza, the schools chancellor, said earlier this week that he considered long-term closings an “extreme” measure and a “last resort.”
While there are plenty of private schools closing their doors in the face of the Coronavirus, many of the most impoverished kids don't have access to regular internet connections that would allow for in-home learning opportunities, further holding them back from students with more advantages.
“We can’t do distance learning,” Nicole Manning, a ninth-grade math teacher at Herbert H. Lehman High School in the Bronx said. “It wouldn’t be fair.”
Dana Goldstein, New York Times education writer took to Twitter:
I think the main concern I heard from school leaders across the country was about the risk of an overreaction (longterm school closures) that would severely disrupt...pretty much everything, and disproportionately impact poor families.— Dana Goldstein (@DanaGoldstein) March 5, 2020
Efforts continue to keep kids safe by thoroughly sanitizing the schools and NYC Mayor de Blasio has stated that student attendance rates were as high if not higher this past week than they were a year ago at this time.
“Officials in NYC said they would close public schools only as last resort, in part because about 114,000 students in school system are homeless and may have nowhere else to get hot meals, medical care or even a place to wash their dirty laundry”— KD (@Fly_Sistah) March 9, 2020
Meanwhile, the other danger that educators face is the wave of misinformation and prejudice that has popped up in the wake of the Coronavirus. The city's official education page reads:
"It’s important we come together as a city and support one another as neighbors and New Yorkers during this time. COVID-19 is not more likely found in any one race or nationality, and we must each model inclusion and actively work to combat bias in our workplaces and communities."
Lynn Shon, a science teacher at Middle School 88 in Brooklyn, which has a large Asian-American population, heard one of her students saying “bat soup” in China was the source of the virus, and indicated that she was disgusted by the idea.
“It’s very obvious that the students want to understand this,” she said. “Not every child has an adult that’s able to talk about it.”
As it stands, there are 5 new cases in the city, bringing the total to 25, according to the New York Post.