Thursday, February 13, 2014
Decision to keep NYC public schools open despite snow creates more controversy
By Angy Altamirano
February 13, 2014
Parents of city public school students are telling city officials, they failed.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña announced Wednesday night that the Department of Education will keep all public schools open Thursday, despite the forecast of 8 to 12 inches of heavy, wet snow.
Although, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the snow came down “heavier and faster” than what was predicted by the National Weather Service, he said the right decision was made.
“Based on our knowledge, we were convinced kids could get to schools this morning,” de Blasio said. “So many families depend on their schools as a place for their kids to be during the day.”
Schools have been canceled only a total of 11 times since 1978, according to de Blasio.
“It’s a rarity and it’s something we do not do lightly,” he said.
Both the mayor and schools chancellor said they want to open up communication so parents understand the thinking that goes into making the decision to keep schools open.
“It’s our obligation to run a school system,” he said. “Given what we knew, we knew our children could get to school safely.”
Yet, even as Fariña said it had turned into a “beautiful day” after the morning snow, parents were outraged with the idea that their children’s lives were put in danger.
“I decided to not send my kids to school because it is too dangerous out there. The roads, at least by me are bad, buses are getting stuck and I don’t want to risk it,” said Michelle Rojas, mother of two from Flushing. “[City officials] are not thinking. They can make the days up.”
Sara Alvarez, mother of three, said she learned her lesson from the last snowstorm and did not want to go through the “chaos” once again.
“One day less of class doesn’t matter, what’s most important is the security of our children,” she said.
“The last snowstorm was chaos and can you imagine when it comes to dismissal? It’ll be a whole other chaos.”
One local school bus operator, who wished to remain anonymous, said that although all her “dedicated” workers made it in and every bus went out on its route to pick up students, she is still concerned about the conditions on the road.
“I am livid. This is a very dangerous storm,” she said. “I am very concerned about school buses driving in this condition. I will not be happy until all the buses come back today.”
Fariña said students and staff would have excused lateness during such snow emergencies, but absences would still not be excused.
“I understand the desire to keep schools open. The only thing that trumps that is safety,” said Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers. “Having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted. It was a mistake to open schools today.”
Field trips, after-school programs and PSAL activities, however, are all cancelled today.