Governor Andrew Cuomo announced all schools within nine New York City hotspot ZIP codes had to close on Oct. 6. Four parish schools and Catholic academies were forced to close their doors and shift to remote learning: Good Shepherd Catholic Academy (11229), Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy (11223), St. Athanasius Catholic Academy (11204), St. Edmund School (11229). Their enrollment totals 1,070 students.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Diocese of Brooklyn has strictly followed all the government orders and regulations to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The Tablet’s editorials have supported this course of action every step of the way, but this time is different, and Governor Cuomo should reconsider his decision.
Including Catholic schools and academies in the closure order is unfair. Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens spent months of hard work and millions of dollars to prepare for the 2020-2021 school year and guarantee the health of their students, teachers,
“It is unconscionable to think that after the many sacrifices our staff, students, and parents have made, and in spite of our almost non-existent infection rate, the Governor has decided to force our four schools to close,” Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Brooklyn said in a statement. “The Governor should delay the order related to our schools and visit each one before holding firm to his decision.”
Dr. Chadzutko makes a strong argument. The schools and academies in the diocese require students to wear masks all day while in school. These buildings have enough space to set up all desks six feet apart, hand and respiratory hygiene are promoted and enforced by teachers, and signage has been installed throughout school buildings promoting hygiene, illness, mask, and distance requirements. Schools also conduct daily health screenings of all who enter the building per New York State guidelines.
Procedures are in place if a positive COVID-19 case is detected or suspected. Besides, all buildings have passed all inspections conducted by New York City health officials.
Since classes started at the beginning of the school year, there has been just one case of COVID-19 in the schools and academies within the diocese. Students are striving to follow the rules — that’s one of the main reasons why we have recently seen a growing number of parents transferring kids from public schools to Catholic schools and academies in the diocese.
Closing these schools is unnecessary and detrimental to the children’s educational progress. Catholic schools and academies in Brooklyn and Queens have done everything in their power to have a normal school year. And they are succeeding. They are also ready to pivot to a hybrid schedule or remote learning if it becomes necessary, but this is not the case now. Life in the time of COVID-19 is hard enough. Governor Cuomo shouldn’t make it even harder for more than 1,000 children and their families.
He might be trying to be fair and an equalitarian, but he is actually unfairly punishing the schools with the best plans in the city to deal with the current situation.