NYC Public Schools Close Buildings, Schools of Brooklyn Diocese to Stay Open for In-Person Learning

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Catholic Education, Catholic Schools, Cuomo, Faith, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public School, Public schools

By Emily Drooby

It’s the moment parents are dreading: back to remote learning for all of New York City’s public-school students, and it’s not clear when they’ll be back in class.

The city hit the percent COVID infection rate on Wednesday Nov. 18, and as promised, they announced they would shut school doors.

However, the announcement was plagued by confusion. Just minutes before the NYC Department of Education’s chancellor announced the closing, Governor Andrew Cuomo patronized a reporter for asking questions on the matter.

“First of all, let’s not try to be obnoxious and offensive in your tone, because you’re 100% wrong,” the governor said to a reporter who asked him if schools would open on Thursday in NYC.

As his press conference was ending, reporters got word of NYC Department of Education Chancellor, Richard Carranza’s announcement, and let the governor know.

When it comes to Catholic schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn, Thomas Chadzutko, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for Brooklyn and Queens, says they will not close. They will still keep all 69 of their schools open for in-person learning.

“We really want the children in the classrooms,” he said while speaking with Currents News.

He 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.

The situation right now is similar to the beginning of the year, when public schools were closed and catholic schools remained open.

If the state designates New York City an orange zone, then all schools would have to briefly close and pass a certain level of COVID testing to reopen.

Orange zone schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn recently had to test everyone to reopen. However, if all of the city became orange, it’s not clear if that formula for reopening would stay the same or change.

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.