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De Blasio catches heat for premature school cancellation Monday after NYC gets less snow than expected

2019-03-04

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. (Hans Pennink / AP)

New York City kids rejoiced Sunday night when Mayor de Blasio announced schools would close Monday for snow — but their parents weren’t so happy.

The National Weather Service initially projected six to eight inches of snow would blanket the five boroughs — but when the city woke on Monday morning, residents found just a couple inches of snow accumulation.

The lackluster performance by the blizzard upset some parents, who were left scrambling for child care Sunday evening.

“Even for a family with resources and flexibility, it’s an inconvenience,” said Erin Schulte Collier, of Park Slope, whose two children attend public schools.

Schulte Collier said she’d work late Monday night to make up for the time watching her kids during the workday while they missed school.

But other city parents, she noted, aren’t as fortunate.

“Some families are scrambling,” she said. “It can me a make or break situation.”

De Blasio defended his decision, writing on Twitter Monday morning that the forecast projected more snow and less rain.

“We know it’s tough for working parents,” he said. “That’s why we made an early decision so New Yorkers could plan.”

In an unrelated press conference later that day, de Blasio said he made the decision to shutter schools based on safety.

“It just did not look like a safe situation,” he said, adding: “You’ve got to assume the worst projection and then some.”

The mayor caught criticism earlier this school year when he kept classes open during a freak afternoon blizzard on Nov. 15 that gummed up the city’s transportation networks and kept some students stranded in buses late into the night.

Sisters Samantha (left), 6, didn't mind today's snow day as she builds a snowman with Valerie Hoffman, 3, in Prospect Park, Brooklyn on Monday
Sisters Samantha (left), 6, didn't mind today's snow day as she builds a snowman with Valerie Hoffman, 3, in Prospect Park, Brooklyn on Monday (Jeff Bachner for New York Daily News)

But de Blasio spokesman Eric Phillips said the decision to close school was based on safety alone.

"For this mayor the safety of our kids is the first and last question in the decision,” Phillips said.

“At the same time, he is extremely reluctant to send parents scrambling for child care,” he added. “This is a no-win dynamic for any mayor."

De Blasio certainly didn’t score any points with Queens mom Rachel Dodes-Wortman, who found herself watching her son AJ on Monday after his prekindergarten class at Public School 78 was canceled.

“I don’t understand,” said Dodes-Wortman, who co-hosts a podcast called “This Week in Nope.”

“What kid of lunatic calls a snow day at on a Sunday night, when it’s not even snowing?”

Monday was the first snow day since Richard Carranza became New York City Schools Chancellor last April.

Carranza tweeted the Department of Education’s justification for the snow day Sunday night, highlighting the heavy accumulation in the forecast.

But Carranza’s tweet was overpowered as parents took to social media to voice their frustration over the city’s decision to close schools, city problems with childcare and work schedules as major hassles.

“No reason for the snow day as the roads were perfectly clear by the time school opened,” wrote Twitter user @QofLNYC, whose kids were impacted by the closure.

“At the very least the mayor could have done a delayed opening for schools today,” the parent added.

The city schools’ last snow day was March 21, 2018, when a nor'easter blanketed the city in wet snow.

Carranza’s predecessor Carmen Fariña grabbed headlines days after taking the city’s top education job in 2014, when at a press conference with de Blasio she justified keeping schools open during the worst storm of the year by insisting it was a “beautiful day” outside, drawing the ire of students, parents and teachers who struggled in a major snowstorm.

Since de Blasio’s been mayor he’s called seven snow days, a higher number than Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who called five snow days over three terms in office.

And while some parents complained of de Blasio’s decision to call a snow day on Monday, others defended him.

“It’s not ideal having to work from home with 2 kids but I understand the decision based on last night’s forecast,” wrote Twitter user @zain_hoda, a dad from Brooklyn.