On March 6, New York City high school principal Matt Willie was already preparing for the worst. After watching a news report that said the city’s Department of Education was preparing to close public schools amid the coronavirus crisis, Willie texted his assistant principal: “Prepare for the apocalypse.”
Willie said his school, University Neighborhood High School on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, was about as prepared as he could hope, having started disaster prep about a week before the DOE gave its final judgement. During that time, Willie and his staff took inventory of in-school laptops, surveyed students about whether they had devices and internet connections at home (“just in case”) and had already distributed some laptops to students whose parents said they were no longer comfortable sending them to school.
But when the DOE finally announced school closures, staff still had to scramble. The decision came down on a Friday, upending the school’s plans to ask students to sign out laptops from their third-period teachers.