New York City public schools will hold classes remotely on Tuesday, Mayor Eric Adams announced on social media, as the metro area prepares for what could be its largest snowfall in more than two years.
A winter storm is likely to blanket parts of the Northeast from late Monday into Tuesday, with up to two inches of snow per hour in some areas. Five to eight inches are expected in New York City and on Long Island, and could significantly disrupt the morning commute.
Ever since schools shuttered in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic and moved to remote classes, many districts including New York — the nation’s largest — have planned to forgo the tradition of canceling classes in response to heavy snow. So on Tuesday, more than 900,000 city students will switch to virtual learning in the system’s first experiment with a remote snow day since schools were fully reopened.
“Our children must learn,” Mayor Adams said at a news conference on Monday, when asked about students who want the day off. “They fell behind. We need to catch up. That is what we need to be focusing on.”
The decision to hold classes online was announced just after 10 a.m. on Monday, several hours before snow is expected to begin falling in the city. Mayor Adams has previously faced intense criticism for slow communication ahead of inclement weather.
During a major rainstorm in September, the administration’s decision to keep schools open came under fire after some 150 schools flooded and one was evacuated. Many students arrived to their first period classes drenched, and were rushed to upper floors to avoid floodwaters. Mayor Adams at the time defended the decision to keep schools open.
The school system previously held remote classes for some older students in June, when wildfire smoke caused air quality to deteriorate. But the majority of children were already scheduled to be off.
On Tuesday, the snow will offer a significant test of the system’s preparedness for virtual learning in the wake of the pandemic.
The schools chancellor, David C. Banks, said on Monday that he believes the system “is more than prepared” for the transition. The city purchased more than 700,000 iPads and laptops for students at the start of the pandemic. In recent months, families had been asked to practice logging on remotely.
Still, New York schools now educate more than 35,000 migrant students who have never learned remotely in the city, in addition to many other vulnerable children who may not have reliable internet service.
“Whenever you’re dealing with technology in a system this large, there are always glitches,” Mr. Banks said. “We want to minimize those glitches.” He added, “We’ll be assessing our effectiveness every step of the way.”
The decision to keep schools open — or to close them — inevitably attracts both criticism and praise. Only 11 snow days were called from 1978 to 2013. But Mayor Bill de Blasio called off school for snow seven times in his first five years in office.
Rita Joseph, who leads the City Council’s education committee, said in a statement that she appreciated the advance notice. “We must ensure that our students and educators can have a fruitful remote day without lapses,” Ms. Joseph said.