Mayor defends decision to keep schools during snowstorm

de blasio snow
Mayor Bill de Blasio fought back criticism for his administration keeping schools open during Thursday’s snowstorm.
Credit: Rob Bennett/NYC Mayor’s Office

Mayor Bill de Blasio defended his administration’s decision to keep the city’s schools open despite a massive nor’easter slamming the five boroughs.

Even as forecasters predicted as much as 12 inches of snow in New York City through Friday morning, the mayor said there were no signs that the city’s 1.1 million public school students couldn’t safely make it to their classrooms on Thursday.

Flanked by agency heads from the sanitation, transportation, emergency management, police, fire and education departments at the Office of Emergency Management offices in Brooklyn, de Blasio pleaded again that New Yorker stay off the roads unless urgent or absolutely necessary for either work or school.

De Blasio fought off suggestions that the city put students and parents in danger by both asking residents to stay off the roads but keeping schools open, describing last night’s predictions as a “gray situation.”

“I want to make 100 percent clear,” de Blasio said, “as a parent and having a chancellor who is parent and a lifelong teacher, we make these decisions with the safety our children in mind at all times.”

De Blasio added that it would be very easy for him to call off school every time a snowstorm hit the city. Thursday’s snowstorm was the sixth since de Blasio took office.

“That would be illegal,” he said. “It’s our obligation to run a school system.”

School closures due to snow have been rare, de Blasio added. Over the last 35 years, schools have only had 11 snow days, he said, spanning five administrations.

Had the city predicted a foot of snow between midnight and 6 a.m., which might have further prevented morning commutes, de Blasio said the decision would have been different.

The decision to keep the city’s public schools open was made Thursday night, Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina added, because the administration was anticipating warmer temperatures that wouldn’t prevent students from going to class, even if they were a little tardy.

Farina also posited that the first and only school closure of the year was an easier decision because predicted temperatures were below freezing. That wasn’t the case today, she said.

“And by the way, just coming down here, it has totally stopped snowing,” Farina said. “It is absolutely a beautiful day right now. So the reality is we make decisions based on what we know at the time.”

However, at least one politician fired back at the administration. Public Advocate Letitia James said she was concerned about both the conditions in the morning and in the afternoon, given the mix of snow, rain and ice commuters could expect at rush hour.

“It is clear that a re-evaluation of the criteria for closing New York City schools is needed after today’s storm,” James said in a statement. “We must adjust the standards so that students, teachers, administrators and parents are not put in harm’s way.”

Both de Blasio and Farina said some parents have expressed gratitude to the administration, especially working families. However, both officials committed to offering up earlier information to parents and teachers to alleviate some of the frustration.

“Lessons learned,” Farina said.

De Blasio also responded to NBC weatherman Al Roker, who sent out a barrage of tweets criticizing the administration for not closing schools. The “Today” show co-star, who has a daughter in a New York City public school, used Twitter to predict that de Blasio would only have a single term.

De Blasio begged to differ.

“I respect Al Roker a lot, watched him on TV for many years,” de Blasio said with pointed deference. “It’s a different thing to run a city than give the weather on TV.”

But the last word of the spat went to Roker.

Mr. Mayor, I could never run NYC, but I know when it’s time to keep kids home from school
— Al Roker (@alroker) February 13, 2014

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said in a statement that he understood the desire to keep schools open.

“The only thing that trumps that is safety,” Mulgrew added. “Having students, parents and staff traveling in these conditions was unwarranted. It was a mistake to open schools today.”

Mulgrew later amended his remarks to praise de Blasio’s and Farina’s comments on improved communication with parents and staff.

“We owe them that transparency,” the mayor said.

Follow Chester Jesus Soria on Twitter @chestersoria


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…

International

British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…

Local

DA: Homeless man severely beat by men in…

Two former college football players pleaded not guilty to the alleged severe beating of a homeless man in Allston earlier this year.

National

Hamas, Abbas's PLO announce reconciliation agreement

The Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed on Wednesday to a unity pact.

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Going Out

Thursty: Revamped Audubon is back in action

Having been a long time fan of Trina's Starlite Lounge in Inman Square, one of my only complaints about the place is that there's only…

Entertainment

Here's what to do in Boston this weekend

MUSIC Huun Huur Tu Friday, 8 p.m. First Church in Cambridge 11 Garden St., Cambridge $28, 617-876-4275 www.worldmusic.org This group comes from the tiny nation…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox top Yankees, 5-1

John Lackey shines, Pineda ejected in Red Sox win

NHL

Bruins - Red Wings Game 4 preview: Boston…

Bruins - Red Wings Game 4 preview: Boston greedy for more dominance

MLB

Fantasy baseball: Searching for early season prospects

It’s relatively rare for a mediocre 30-year-old hitter to suddenly go nuts offensively for 162 games. That’s why minor league prospects are so exciting.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."