COVID Testing Begins for Red Zone Catholic Schools in Brooklyn, Queens Per Reopening Requirements

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, Coronavirus, covid testing, Faith, Queens, NY, schools, schools reopening, testing

By Emily Drooby

On Thursday Nov. 5, St. Athanasius Catholic Academy students Emma and Dominic Thomas were tested for COVID-19.

Emma described the test as, “kinda tickly but it was soft.”

“When it went into my nose I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it actually doesn’t hurt.’ It felt really soft, but it almost made me sneeze,” explained her brother.

This is a step that needs to be taken before their red zone school can welcome students back.

Last week New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced stricter reopening guidelines for schools in COVID hot spot zones, including that everyone must have a negative COVID test before in-person learning can restart. The new rules also require 25 percent of the school to be tested weekly after reopening.

Six Catholic schools in the Brooklyn Diocese were forced closed for being in a red zone. St. Athanasius in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn is one of them.

They held on-site testing for their students Wednesday and Thursday. Even their pastor, Monsignor David Cassato, joined. He says all 170 people they tested the first day were negative.

“I’m glad I got it done because I want this school opened, I want the kids back in here,” said Monsignor Cassato, who is also the Diocese of Brooklyn’s Vicar for Catholic Schools.

The process was easy. Kids were ushered into a private room with their parents and a registered nurse administered the test. The results came back in just 15 minutes.

However, getting testing up and running was not painless.

“It’s been very difficult getting this all together. Because the state took days to send the tests. And secondly, trying to get a vendor to take care of us and to get the testing done,” explained Monsignor Cassato.

He thanked Maimonides Medical Center for making the testing possible.

Across the Brooklyn Diocese, other schools are dealing with a similar struggle. Every school is at a different stage of testing.

Finishing testing doesn’t mean the schools can just open up. Results have to be sent to the state, which will give final approval.

“The children are really actually accommodating really well, but they need to get back to some kind of normal,” said the school’s principal, Diane Competello.

“I miss my teachers and my friends and I miss hanging out with them at class,” Noelle Pianoforte, a student at the school, told Currents News.

St. Athanasius Catholic Academy has been closed for almost five weeks.