Village Academy in Far Rockaway, Queens has become the third school this academic year to close due to a COVID-19 outbreak and the second public school to shutter its doors because of the virus this week.
The closure was first reported by Chalkbeat and will begin Thursday, Nov. 11 forcing the middle school’s 415 students to learn remotely until Friday, Nov. 19. Families were notified last night about the school’s impending transition to remote learning, according to a Department of Education spokesperson, who added that most Village Academy students have a remote learning device but those who do not have the option to pick one at school.
“We do not hesitate to take action to keep school communities safe and our multi-layered approach to safety has kept our positivity rate extremely low at 0.19 percent,” said DOE spokesperson Nathaniel Styer. “All staff at DOE are vaccinated and all students at Village Academy have access to a device to ensure live, continuous learning.” COVID-19 infection rates in public schools have remained relatively low with the rate currently 0.19%, according to Styer. Out of 65,000 public school classrooms, only 140 are quarantining at the moment.
Village Academy has reported a total of 19 positive cases of the virus over the last two weeks with 17 of those cases occurring in students and two in staffers, according to the New York State Department of Health’s COVID-19 report card.
Earlier this week, P.S. 166 in Astoria became the second public school forced to temporarily shutter its doors due to an outbreak of the virus raising questions about the City’s school closure policy. Last year, schools would close if two unlinked COVID-19 cases were found in a building but this fall officials are instead only shutting down schools if “widespread” transmission is detected.
The first school forced to transition to fully remote this year was a District 75 school in East Harlem shortly after thousands of students returned to physical classrooms after a year and a half of interrupted learning.