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 students in New York will switch to virtual learning in the system’s first experiment with a remote snow day since schools were fully reopened.
The decision to hold classes online was announced just after 10 a.m. on Monday, 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. New York schools now educate more than 30,000 migrant students who have never learned remotely in the city, in addition to many other vulnerable children who may not have reliable internet service.
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.