COVID-19 worries prompt Catholic school closings in New York, Brooklyn

COVID-19 worries prompt Catholic school closings in New York, Brooklyn

Our Lady Queen of Angels School in the East Harlem section of New York City is seen in this 2015 file photo. The Archdiocese of New York will close all of its elementary schools from March 16 to March 20, and possibly longer, as a preventative coronavirus measure. (Credit: Gregory A. Shemitz/CNS.)

In response to growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York will close for a minimum of one week beginning March 16.

RYE, New York — In response to growing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York will close for a minimum of one week beginning March 16.

Superintendent of Schools Michael J. Deegan announced the measure March 12.

“The decision to close all schools in the 10-county archdiocese was made to ensure the health and safety of our dedicated principals, devoted teachers and staff, and our beloved children, as well as to aid the whole community in these unsettled days,” Deegan told Catholic News Service.

Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York serve more than 62,000 students from pre-K through 12th grade at more than 200 schools.

The decision was “informed by expert health officials and the Health and Safety Task Force of the Office of the Superintendent of Schools” and made out of an abundance of caution, according to a news release.

All school activities, sporting events and practices have been canceled indefinitely, it said.

“We truly understand that taking this action may cause some disruption to our families, but we strongly believe that these measures taken now will have the greatest success of decreasing risk to the whole community,” the release said.

Before the announcement of the closing, Deegan sent regular updates to school families about “proactive, pragmatic and patient” policy responses to the public health crisis.

In addition to cleaning and sanitizing measures by staff at each building, Deegan said principals and teachers were preparing to offer remote learning by creating lessons, developing guidelines and gathering resources for their students.

On March 13, Thomas Chadzutko, superintendent of schools in the neighboring Diocese of Brooklyn, announced that all elementary Catholic academies and parish schools will be closed March 16-20.

The diocese, which covers the New York boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, set up an online section on coronavirus, https://catholicschoolsbq.org/coronavirus. Parents also were advised to regularly monitor their parish and school websites for any updates.

The decision to close the schools “was made out of an abundance of caution due to the rapidly changing situation” surrounding coronavirus and after further consultation with representatives of city and state agencies, the diocese said in a news release.

It said the diocese’s school leaders will follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines for “deep cleaning and sanitization of buildings.”

March 16 “will be used as a professional day for teachers to develop their distance learning plans,” Chadzutko said.

The Schools Office expected that beginning March 17, students “will have access to online learning,” he added. “While we understand that not all families may have access to online learning, we have directed all academies to utilize alternative instructional processes.”

“The health and safety of our students, staff, and families is of the utmost importance,” the diocese said in its release. “Our continued quest is to maintain safe and clean environments.”


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