New York City public schools will close Monday, March 16, until at least April 20, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday.
De Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo were facing pushback from parents and the city teachers union over their reluctance to close schools in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The mayor added that it is possible students will not return to school before the end of the semester.
"To say the least, this is a very troubling moment, a moment where I am just distraught at having to take this action," de Blasio said at a news conference Sunday afternoon. "But I became convinced over the course of today that there was no other choice."
There were five novel coronavirus-related deaths in the city as of Sunday morning and 329 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the city.
Remote learning for students will begin March 23. Teachers are to undergo what the mayor called "battlefield training" to acclimate them to teaching virtual classes.
Schools will be open all week for "grab-and-go-meals" for needy students.
He added that the decision was "something not in a million years I could have imagined."
De Blasio was under harsh criticism for his obstinance regarding a potential long-term school closure to contain the highly contagious virus.
The teachers union threatened to file a complaint with the state Department of Labor, arguing that the schools posed "unsafe" work environments in light of the pandemic.
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