WINDSOR TERRACE — Mask wearing will be required by all students, faculty, and staff members in the 69 Catholic academies and parish schools across the Diocese of Brooklyn come September 8, the first day of school.
The diocese said the decision was made in the absence of a New York state-ordered mask mandate and in the wake of the state Department of Health’s recommendation that school districts adopt universal indoor masking for all, based on guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“As the numbers of coronavirus cases continue to spike in children and the overall numbers of hospitalizations in New York City are on the rise, this is the most responsible approach to take when we begin the new school year,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Thomas Chadzutko.
The Office of the Superintendent of Catholic Schools made the announcement on August 12, detailing additional COVID-19 safety protocols that will be in place when schools reopen for in-person learning this fall.
“I know the return to these safety measures is not the situation parents, teachers, or students were hoping to be the case in the 2021-2022 school year, but we cannot ignore the trends,” Chadzutko added.
However, Chadzutko emphasized that the guidelines set forth on August 12 could be revisited and adjusted. He also noted that his office is closely monitoring the situation on a daily basis.
“This can dramatically change, which is our hope and prayer,” Chadzutko told Currents News, “but for now we have to have some type of plan … because we can’t do it last minute.”
“We really want to continue to protect the safety of our staff, faculty, children, and visitors,” he added.
School officials continue to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations, social distancing, hand washing, and hand hygiene — while schools maintain rigorous daily cleaning and sanitizing of facilities and administer daily health screenings. All schools will continue to follow city and state guidelines regarding contact tracing, quarantine, and isolation protocols once schools reopen.
Parents will be required to receive medical clearance from a health care provider stating that their children can safely return to in-person learning. Children must stay home from school if they are sick.
Like last year, the diocese will continue to offer families an online-only instruction option for the 2021-22 school year through the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Online Academy.
Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens opened on time last year and were able to offer in-person, five-day-a-week instruction, throughout the year in adherence to strict health and safety guidelines.
“It worked because we were extremely cautious,” said Msgr. David Cassato, vicar for Catholic Schools, in reference to last year’s operations that brought children back to the classrooms safely.
Msgr. Cassato, like the superintendent’s office, emphasized that caution must be taken moving forward as the Delta variant continues to spread and as more children test positive for the coronavirus.
“I think the caution is critical,” he said. “Let’s pray that we can really put these numbers down and watch that positivity rate go down and down.”