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Will all NYC schools close if we reach the 3 percent threshold?

Your questions answered.

Danielle Valente

UPDATE: NYC schools will be closed on Thursday, Nov 19. Chancellor Richard A. Carranza has sent an email to principals of NYC schools about the switch to remote learning. Miranda Barbot, press secretary for the NYC DOE, has confirmed the closure with Time Out New York Kids. Mayor Bill de Blasio has confirmed in a tweet that NYC reached the 3 percent threshold needed to shut down schools.  

As we head into the final weeks of 2020, New Yorkers are fighting back against increasing infection rates

Families are growing concerned about the possibility of NYC schools shutting down for a second time this year. Although transmission rates are low in schools, the city is inching towards the threshold that would require closures: a test positivity seven-day average of 3 percent (as compared to 5 percent for the rest of the state).  

As of Monday, Nov 16, the rate is 2.77 percent and schools will remain open for in-person learning, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio. However, this scare has many parentings what to do, where to look for information and so on. We're here to help answer your questions. 

Will all NYC schools close if the city hits or exceeds 3 percent?

If NYC hits or exceeds 3 percent, all schools will shut down, according to the original plan that was devised during the summer with the city and state. On Nov 16, Mayor de Blasio addressed the numbers during a press briefing.  

"We said that to give people confidence that we will put health and safety first, and we have put health and safety first, and we will put health and safety' first. So, we're sticking to that threshold and I believe there's still a chance to fight back this disease and keep our schools open for a good while ahead," he said. "But if that is not our reality, if, in fact, we surpass the threshold, then we will have the immediate effort to get schools back and get them back quickly."

Is it possible for the threshold to change?

Since the transmission rate is low in schools, many are wondering if the 3 percent threshold will be adjusted. Essentially, anything is possible, but NYC schools would have to work with families and educators to reach a consensus, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

During a Nov 16 appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Governor Cuomo said, "We had webinars, we had dialogues and the parents and the teaches felt comfortable at 3 percent and we set 3 percent through that dialogue and collective. That's where the 3 percent came from. It also came at a much earlier time when we were at about 1 percent and 3 percent sounded outrageously high. So at 3 percent the teachers, the parents, expect and agreed that the schools would close.

He continued, "What I'm saying is we've learned a lot since then and schools are actually the safe place. The infection rate in the schools is much lower than the rest of the city and the rest of the community. Why not leave the children in the schools rather than have them around run around the streets where the infection rate is five times as high? So if the schools hit the 3 percent what I'm suggesting to the parents and the teachers and the Mayor is let's take a second calculus which is the infection rate in the school."

When will schools close should we reach or exceed the three percent threshold? 

Should NYC reach or exceed the 3 percent threshold, schools will shut the following day, according to a spokesperson for the NYC DOE. 

How long would schools remain closed?

"If we do have to shut down, we would work to come back very quickly with additional safety measures," the mayor said on Nov 16. 

Where can families find up-to-date information?

The NYC DOE homepage and email correspondence from their children's schools. 

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