Diocese of Brooklyn Schools Remain Open Amid Omicron Surge

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, Coronavirus, COVID, covid testing, COVID VACCINE, Faith, Media, Queens, NY

By Jessica Easthope

First graders at St. Mel’s Catholic Academy in Flushing, Queens are back in the classroom for the first time in 2022. Their first two days of school started remote because seven teachers were out with COVID-19, but now they’re back.

“It was a tough decision to make, but in light of the staffing situation we had and the rise in Omicron, I believe it was the right one,” said St. Mel’s principal Amy Barron.

Amy shows excitement differently. For her, it’s more like relief that her students are back in the place where they’re safest.

“We haven’t seen any outbreaks within the school,” she said. “Isolated incidents are unfortunately happening everywhere but the important thing is how we respond to them and that we keep our kids safe.”

Masks are still up and hands are still being sanitized – just some of the many precautions that allowed 70 percent of schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn to open in person on Monday.

Once there were enough teachers, Amy brought students back knowing they’re protected and getting the most they can out of school in their classrooms.

“Nothing takes the place of a live teacher, the interaction, the support they get you can only get that in person,” she said.

It’s the little things that count, says one of the school teachers.

“The little things like telling them they’re doing a good job, being able to give them that one-on-one support, you can’t do that on Zoom,” said first-grade teacher, Samantha Murphy.

And it’s the little things for the students too – like sharpening a pencil, scooters in gym and what Samantha’s first graders call “a brain break” are all things that can’t happen over Zoom. Teachers say the COVID precautions are a small sacrifice for a big payoff.

“To the kids, it’s their new normal. They know it’s what they have to do to go to school and it works out for all of us,” Samantha said.

St. Mel’s welcomed back kindergarten through fourth grade on Wednesday, Jan. 5. The Catholic academy is hoping to do the same for its Pre-k classes next Monday.