By Jessica Easthope
Brendan Moloney is an eighth grade teacher at St. Patrick Catholic Academy in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and he can’t wait to get his students back in the classroom.
“This building was built to fit 60 students a class, two classes a grade and we have about 15 to 20 students in a class, so we’re able to safely social distance and stay six feet apart,” he explained of the school’s layout.
Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the weekend of August 7 that New York’s infection rate is low enough to give schools the green light to reopen.
“Our schools are facing unprecedented challenges, they must now not only educate our students but keep them safe from this deadly virus,” said Gov. Cuomo.
But how schools reopen will be left up to each school district, and parents.
“They have real issues, and real concerns, and there has to be a dialogue, and there has to be a discussion,” the governor added. “Several school districts have sent in plans. Several school districts have updated their plans.”
St. Patrick has already made its plan public, with “some staircases that will only be ones that you walk up and not so students aren’t passing each other,” said Brendan. “Students will wear masks at all times and teachers will wear face shields.”
But it won’t be easy for every school in the Brooklyn Diocese to go back as COVID-19 poses a greater threat in some neighborhoods. Right now, schools are hoping for the best but preparing for the worst.
“I think we really need to give parents hope and our teachers hope,” said Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, Superintendent of Schools for the diocese. “Let’s plan for full reopening and if we have to kick it down a notch to hybrid, I think that’s acceptable.”
According to a new poll that surveyed more than 500 teachers, 82 percent were concerned about returning to in-person learning.
Brendan says he does fear for his health.
“We’ll do our best to wear our masks and face shields but you never know what’s going to happen,” he said.
Though he’s eager to teach in front of his classroom, Brendan says Catholic schools in the Brooklyn Diocese are well equipped for online learning in case schools close again.
“We wouldn’t miss a step, just like we didn’t miss a step back in march because our kids are so used to learning digitally,” he explained.
In order to reopen in September, Catholic schools must have their plans approved first by the diocese, then by the state.