By Emily Drooby
Joseph Rotondi is back in class for the first time in over a month.
“I’m pretty happy to see all my friends and learn in person again because I didn’t really like online school,’ he told Currents News.
“I feel excited, so we can finally do the stuff we want to do,” agreed Victor Vazquez, another student.
They are two of the many students back in the classrooms at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in Gravesend, Brooklyn. They are one of six Catholic schools in the Brooklyn Diocese closed in early October because of their location within a red zone, which is an area with a high amount of COVID-19 cases.
After meeting New York State requirements of having all students and staff tested, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy was able to officially open back up their doors.
“It’s a whole different feeling now that everybody is back. The energy level is up, the kids are excited to be together, we are thrilled to be with them,” said teacher Michele Cirelli while speaking to Currents News at the school.
All schools in the red zone must comply with state guidelines by testing everyone before reopening, followed by weekly random testing on 25% of the population.
Good Shepherd Catholic Academy opened on November 9, Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy in Brooklyn opened on November 6 and St. Athanasius Catholic Academy opened on November 6.
St. Edmund Elementary School and St. Edmund Preparatory High School are both planning to reopen on November 10, while Midwood Catholic Academy is planning for a November 12 reopening date.
Brooklyn’s red zone was also just changed to an orange zone on Nov. 9.
Our Lady of Grace principal, Kelly Wolf, said despite their proximity to what’s been called a hot spot area, they’ve yet to have a positive case in the building.
While having the students back is a big triumph, school and staff know they need to be prepared for any future closures, ‘and will continue to do our health surveys every morning and live by the core four,” said Principal Wolfe. “But it is that we are in that red zone, we are a red zone school. So, so much of it is out of our hands.”
The core four guidelines are: stay home if you are sick, social distance, cover your face and practice healthy hand hygiene.