By Emily Drooby
Our schools will not close — it’s a strong message that came from Thomas Chadzutko, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for Brooklyn and Queens.
“We really want the children in the classrooms,” he said while speaking with Currents News.
The firm stance comes as New York City public school students continue to learn whether or not they will be able to learn in-person, on a day-by-day basis.
Mayor Bill de Blasio has vowed to close schools if the city’s infection rate hits three percent. On Tuesday, Nov. 17, it was at 2.74. The rate has been hovering close to three for days.
Schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn are calming parents’ fears, announcing that even if the city hits that three percent benchmark, they will still keep all 69 of their schools open for in-person learning.
They added that they’re more than prepared to keep students safe.
“Our confidence really started when we submitted our reopening plans. We met with every principal and if possible board chair or pastor,” said Chadzutko. “They’ve documented all of the protocols.”
“We all have to make the basic minimum requirements that the Department of Health, both city and state, has put forth for us, we go beyond those requirements as well,” said Joan McMaster, Associate Superintendent for Principal and Teacher Personnel in the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Along with the normal health checks like daily screenings, they’ve been able to prevent the spread by staying diligent and communicating.
“The cases that have come in, been reported to us, are really when we traced them back, these are events that are beyond our control on the weekend. Events where there have been Halloween parties, sporting events, oddly enough, sleepovers,” said Chadzutko.
Principals report to the assistant superintendent, who works with the health department to deal with the potential spread. This will be especially important as students go into the holiday season.
“Even when there’s possible exposures, they call us right away and they say this happened, someone’s grandmother was over and might have gotten ill and what do we do?” asked McMaster.
The schools are also facing a steep financial hurdle: how to pay for mandatory testing in hot spot zones.
It can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 a week per school, which adds up. For example, all yellow zone schools testing combined is an estimated $84,000 a week. That’s money the schools have to cover.
“I was provided information about applying for a grant, I’m actually in the process of working that grant out,” Chadzutko said. “The grant would cover about 1.3 million, that’s the ask.”
They won’t have the final number for that grant until — and if — it comes through.