By Jessica Easthope
Gina Auricchio teaches first through eighth grade students at St. Athanasius Catholic Academy in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. She’s fully vaccinated – but says that’s because she wants to be.
“I really don’t think it’s fair. People should have their individual choice,” Gina said, “and really where we are, we’re functioning great.”
At St. Athanasius there’s only one teacher who hasn’t gotten the shot and that seems to be a trend when it comes to vaccination rates in schools across the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Of the 69 in-person schools, 11 have a 100 percent vaccination rate and 45 schools have five or less people unvaccinated. The Diocese of Brooklyn as a whole is at 94 percent.
School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Chadzutko says it’s continuing to go up.
“The teachers and the principals and the staff in the Diocese of Brooklyn want to do the right thing and that’s a huge number, but on the flip side we have to be respectful of those who didn’t get vaccinated and what’s their reason,” he said.
The mandate, which is being enforced through an executive order by the New York City Health Department, is affecting 938 schools across the city including yeshivas.
Students at Catholic schools are still required to wear masks all day, social distance, sanitize as much as possible and complete COVID screenings every morning before school.
The Diocese of Brooklyn expressed its opposition through a letter from the committee of New York City Religious and Independent School Officials, but the position of Brooklyn Catholic schools is – no one has been more compliant.
“How much can you force people? We do everything perfectly well,” said Vicar for Catholic Schools Msgr. David Cassato. “Come and see how well it’s going.”