Students work on their laptop. | AP Photo/Kathy Willens
New York City high schools reopened on Monday for the first time since November, the last group of schools in the nation’s largest system to welcome back students after a shutdown driven by high coronavirus infection rates.
The vast majority of students — some 70 percent — will continue to learn entirely from home for now because they chose to sign up for all-remote classes. But city public school students who opted for all-remote education will now have another chance to sign up for in person classes starting this Wednesday, with elementary school children returning to class in April, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
Middle and high school students who are at home full time can also sign up during the two-week opt-in period, which goes from March 24 through April 7. But there is no timeline for when they may be able to return to school.
Some 488 high schools partially reopened on Monday.
The entire school system shut down in mid-November when the city’s Covid-19 infection rate hit 3 percent. Elementary schools reopened in December, and middle schools opened in February. In recent weeks the citywide infection rate has been hovering between 6 and 7 percent.
“We want to obviously have the maximum number of kids back that we can do safely,” de Blasio said at a press briefing Monday. “Our goal is maximum number of kids back, maximum number of days per child.”
De Blasio welcomed students back Monday morning to the School for Law, Government and Justice in the Bronx with his new schools chancellor, Meisha Ross Porter.
“What a good sign, what a hopeful sign about our future … to see teenagers just so ready to be back in school, happy to be back with their friends, happy to be back with their teachers,” de Blasio said.
At many city high schools, students are taking all-remote classes even if they are physically in school because of staff shortages and scheduling complications caused by the city’s hybrid learning system. De Blasio acknowledged that was happening but insisted it was not “the norm.”
In line with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance issued last week, the city will reduce the required amount of distance between students to three feet in elementary schools, de Blasio and public health officials said. Six feet of space will still be required when students take off their masks to eat and in certain other situations.
That will allow more students who are currently all-remote to return. Due to social distancing requirements, many students who have opted for in-person learning can only attend a few days a week and stay home on other days. Other students are able to come in five days a week depending on how crowded their school is.
While bullish on reopening schools, de Blasio said it was “time to reassess” the pace of other reopenings while coronavirus cases in New York remain high, driven by more contagious variants. Gov. Phil Murphy in neighboring New Jersey said Monday he would pause reopenings there. New Jersey and New York have had the highest per capita case rates in the country.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently allowed restaurants in the city to expand to 50 percent capacity indoors.
“We’ve got to stop there. That would be my strong view,” de Blasio said. The governor also authorized indoor fitness classes, a decision the mayor chastised, as well as larger gatherings and the reopening of performing arts venues.
De Blasio and Porter also announced on Monday that city schools will be spared from budget cuts they were set to endure because of declining student enrollment.
Many schools have seen their populations drop because of families leaving the city or withdrawing from the public school system. Under normal rules, that would force the school to hand back a portion of their funding to the city, which many schools said would be a hardship.
After the city got a multibillion-dollar bailout from the recent federal aid bill, schools will now get to keep the money and spend it on more teachers, substitutes, counselors and other needs.
“We have to close that Covid achievement gap. We have to reach kids academically and emotionally,” de Blasio said.
De Blasio also declined to say whether he agrees with mayoral candidate Andrew Yang’s statements blaming the United Federation of Teachers for the slow reopening of schools.
“I do believe that the UFT has been a significant reason why our schools have been slow to open,” Yang told POLITICO last week.
“We can all analyze what’s happened previously, but to me the issue is where we go from here,” the mayor said. “All candidates need to speak their truth, and then it needs to be judged.”
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Reed apologizes and says he won’t challenge Cuomo in 2022
Rep. Tom Reed has announced that he will not run for governor or for reelection next year. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo
By BILL MAHONEY
03/21/2021 07:29 PM EDT
Updated 03/21/2021 07:58 PM EDT
ALBANY, N.Y. — Rep. Tom Reed will not run for governor or for reelection next year, saying that he accepted “full responsibility” for inappropriate behavior involving a lobbyist in 2017.
The six-term Republican congressmember from Corning had been open about his interest in seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination against embattled Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2022. He had previously promised to limit himself to six terms in the House. The Washington Post reported on Friday that former lobbyist Nicolette Davis alleged that Reed had unhooked her bra and touched her thigh while the two were in a Minneapolis pub in 2017. Reed told the paper that the account was “not accurate.”
Here’s the full statement Reed issued on Sunday evening, although his retirement announcement is not part of the statement:
“First, I apologize to Nicolette Davis. Even though I am only hearing of this matter as stated by Ms. Davis in the article now, I hear her voice and will not dismiss her. In reflection, my personal depiction of this event is irrelevant. Simply put, my behavior caused her pain, showed her disrespect and was unprofessional. I was wrong, I am sorry, and I take full responsibility. I further apologize to my wife and kids, my family, the people of the 23rd District, my colleagues, and those who have supported me for the harm this caused them.
“Second, I want to share that this occurred at a time in my life in which I was struggling. Upon entering treatment in 2017, I recognized that I am powerless over alcohol. I am now approaching four years of that personal lifelong journey of recovery. With the support of my wife, kids and loved ones, professional help, and trust in a higher power, I continue that journey day-by-day. This is in no way an excuse for anything I’ve done. Consistent with my recovery, I publicly take ownership of my past actions, offer this amends and humbly apologize again to Ms. Davis, my wife and kids, loved ones, and to all of you.
“Third, I plan to dedicate my time and attention to making amends for my past actions. In addition to apologizing to those I have impacted, including Ms. Davis, I will be seeking to help those wrestling with addiction in any way I can. To others who may be struggling the way I have, please know that by seeking help your life will be forever changed in an extremely positive way. Though the journey is hard please know the rewards are amazing and you are worth it.
“As I go forward, I will strive to be a better human being, continue to fight for what I believe in, and to make people’s lives better in any way I can. I hope this formal apology is just the start.”
If you are a survivor of sexual assault, or you know someone who is, help is available. In the U.S., call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
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Q poll: More New Yorkers want Cuomo gone, but not immediately
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks at a press briefing. | AP Photo/Seth Wenig, Pool
ALBANY, N.Y. — The number of voters who think New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo should remain in office has dipped in recent days, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday afternoon. But an overwhelming majority of respondents think that he should not leave office immediately.
A total of 43 percent of respondents said that Cuomo “should resign,” while 49 percent said he shouldn’t. Support remained fairly high among Democrats: 23 percent said he should resign while 67 percent said he should not. And 36 percent of respondents said he should be impeached, while 54 percent were not supportive of that idea.
Many of those who believe Cuomo should leave office, however, seem to agree with his argument that it’s not yet time to have those discussions. Respondents were asked if they agreed more with “elected officials calling on Governor Cuomo to resign immediately” or with the officials who say “they will wait until the State Attorney General’s independent investigation is completed before they decide.” Twenty-two percent of respondents sided with those calling for his immediate departure, while 74 percent agreed with those who say a decision should wait for the AG’s report. Among Democrats, the breakdown was 10-88.
While those totals might bolster Cuomo’s arguments that calls for his departure are premature, the numbers on the general resignation question suggest he lost some support after a week in which scores of Democratic officials abandoned him.
The poll released on Thursday was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. It was slightly worse for Cuomo compared with a Quinnipiac poll conducted two weeks ago, which found 40 wanted him gone while 55 percent wanted him to stay. (A Siena poll conducted in between the two found the margin to be 35-50).
Some of the broader numbers on Cuomo, however, were more challenging.
A total of 39 percent of respondents approved of the job he’s doing, while 48 percent do not. That’s the lowest job approval for Cuomo in a Quinnipiac poll since taking office in 2011.
Meanwhile, 33 percent view him favorably while 51 percent do not. That’s “his lowest favorability number since Quinnipiac University began tracking his favorability in 2008 while Cuomo served as New York Attorney General,” according to a release from the pollsters.
And while Cuomo has never polled particularly well in general questions about whether he should seek another term, the result in this poll was particularly brutal. Only 25 percent of voters and 35 percent of Democrats want him to run again next year.
There were a few bright stops for the governor.
A plurality of voters, 49 percent, think Cuomo “cares about the needs and problems of people like you.” Respondents approved of his handling of the pandemic by a margin of 54-41. And 61 percent of respondents think the governor “has strong leadership qualities.”
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Women’s groups want Cuomo to resign and don’t mind that Biden doesn’t
A plane pulls a banner reading “New Yorkers Say: Cuomo’s Got To Go!” over the New York State Capitol in response to the sexual harassment allegations made by numerous women against Gov. Andrew Cuomo. | Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for UltraViolet, Women’s March, Girls for Gender Equity
Dozens of Democrats, including both New York senators, most of the state’s congressional delegation and more than half of the legislators, have called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to resign. But Joe Biden has resisted.
The president said on Tuesday that he would wait for the investigation into allegations against the governor to be complete before weighing in on Cuomo’s future. That puts him at odds with some women’s groups, who have called on Cuomo to step down and reiterated their belief that survivors need to be believed in the #MeToo era. But despite lagging behind his own party, those groups are giving Biden a pass. Biden’s remarks represent “a promising first step,” said Shaunna Thomas, executive director of UltraViolet, a women’s advocacy group that has called on Cuomo to resign.
The groups even praised Biden for what appeared to be an off-hand suggestion that Cuomo might be prosecuted if the sexual misconduct accusations against him were found to be true; all while saying they’d encourage the president to go further.
“The fact that Biden is steering the investigation in that direction is important,” said Rachel O’Leary Carmona, executive director of Women’s March. “It’s a strong signal that there needs to be real accountability.”
“We plan to continue to pressure Cuomo and the White House to do the right thing for women here as we look to right the wrongs women have certainly been dealing with for more than the last four years but especially in the last four years,” Carmona added. “The thing that has set Biden apart … is that he listens and shifts. He can be moved.”
In comments to ABC News, Biden told anchor George Stephanopoulos that Cuomo should resign if an investigation confirms the claims of his accusers. “I think he’ll probably end up being prosecuted too,” Biden added.
When asked about statements by nearly the entire Democratic party in New York that Cuomo cannot serve effectively anymore, Biden said, “That’s a judgment for them to make.”
New York Attorney General Letitia James, a Democrat, has launched an investigation into the half-dozen allegations against Cuomo of groping, sexual harassment and berating phone calls. Cuomo, who also faces all allegations that he hid Covid nursing home deaths, has apologized for unintentionally causing harm to women but insisted he has never touched any woman “inappropriately.”
“It is protective of survivors to have a fair and neutral person without a partisan agenda engaging in assessing allegations,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center, which runs the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. “It is protective of survivors to not be put in a situation where we are subject to public figures with political goals minimizing experiences or supporting experiences.”
But Lindsey Boylan, the first woman to accuse Cuomo of sexual harassment, has criticized both Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on Twitter for staying relatively silent on the allegations until recently. She deleted one of her tweets over the weekend that questioned their judgment and courage.
Biden’s comments to ABC echo the approach he took during the presidential campaign when he faced his own decades-old allegation of sexual assault by a former staffer.
After former Senate aide Tara Reade accused Biden of sexually assaulting her in a Senate hallway in 1993, Biden said women’s stories “should be subject to appropriate inquiry and scrutiny” and called on “responsible news organizations” to examine and evaluate her story.
Reade had previously said Biden had touched her inappropriately but did not assault her. Others came forward to say that Reade told them about the incident years ago, though none of the Senate aides Reade said she spoke to recalled the incident.
Women’s groups were quick on Wednesday to note that the allegations against Biden and Cuomo are different. Cuomo faces multiple similar accusations of misconduct that are alleged to have occurred during his current job. Neither were true in Biden’s case, they say.
“Reasonable minds can differ on that and that’s what you’re seeing right now,” said Paula Brantner, a lawyer who runs a consulting firm that deals with sexual harassment and signed a letter asking James to protect accusers and avoid political interference in her investigation.
Brantner said if he was not the governor, Cuomo would likely be on leave already. “We need to have accountability and any resignation that short circuits accountability, it’s not something I personally want to see,” she said.
Most prominent New York Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, want Cuomo to leave office in the wake of allegations by the women and an unrelated nursing home scandal.
Women’s groups, including the National Organization for Women, agree. On Wednesday, they flew a banner reading “New Yorkers Say: Cuomo’s Got to Go,” over the state Capitol and Governor’s Mansion in Albany.
“There is an urgent need to remove him from a position of power — honestly starting with the safety of his own staff,” Thomas said.
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