Good Shepherd School in Madison, Brooklyn has done everything they were mandated to do to make their classrooms safe for both students and teachers, they say. But despite their efforts and that of other private schools, they were closed Tuesday under the state mandate because of high rates of COVID-19 in their community.
Parents with their children jammed the outdoor pay area of the school on Brown Street armed with posters to drive home their point with a rally calling on the state to exempt their school from the school shutdowns. School administrators insist they have done everything possible to keep students safe and have had “no positive COVID-19 children or teachers.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered schools closed in all the zip code areas where COVID-19 rates were above 3 percent threshold on fears of super spreader events anywhere that large numbers of students gather.
Parent leaders say they may sue the state to force them to allow the reopening of their schools.
John O’Brien, principal of the school said he is “disappointed – we’ve been doing such a good job, stocking up on masks, hand sanitizers, signs all over the building.”
“The kids, the parents, the teachers have been spending the last few weeks getting used to the routines, following them and we’ve had no cases of COVID,” he said while wearing a custom mask with the school logo. “The four schools that have been closed down, a thousand kids – there’s been one case. So we’ve been doing what we are supposed to do and the fact that these kids can’t be in school is sad and disheartening and disappointing.”
Denise Moriarty brought her two children, Manuela Rose, 4, and Lucy, 7, to the protest with sign in hand.
“We’ve been open since Sept 9, and we haven’t had any issues to date, all the protocols are being followed even by the littlest children in the school. We feel it is unfair to blanket us with the hot spot that’s being done right now. They are sanitizing throughout, all the kids are wearing their masks, kids have sanitizer in their rooms, all the kids have their own books – nothing is shared. We have humidifiers and air purifiers that we did a GoFundMe and all the parents chipped in – $48,000 in 24.”
David Evans, a parent of two daughters in 1st grade and 3rd grade and an organizer of the protest pointed out that there has been no positive tests for COVID at the school.
“It’s a great community – a community that cares for each other, cares for our neighbors – we have a tremendous plan in place and its been going well for five weeks – kids in the school full-time,” he said. “It stings to be lumped into an arbitrary zip code – zip codes were made for mail, not for people. Five weeks, zero cases – they’ve spent a tremendous amount of money into retrofitting this building – humidifiers, air purifiers, temperature scanners, PPE. Seeing the kids come out yesterday, it hurts. We are not anti-lockdown and have lockdowns in place in our plan. But this isn’t our plan, but maybe they don’t realize what’s happening here in this micro-climate – we’re good.”
While the rally was going, inspectors from the Department of Health were doing their inspection of the school on the other side of the street. The inspectors left quickly when members of the media tried to inquire.
Joan McMaster, associate superintendent for the office of superintendent of schools, said all the schools with a thousand children and more than 100 staff, were inspected by the Department of Health last week. She said there has been “one positive case of COVID to date.”
“To us, our safety and health measure are working, ” McMaster said. “We would like to keep our schools open. That is why we are requesting that the governor looks at individual school data as he makes these decisions.”
Peter Brown, 8, a third grader stood with his friends holding signs calling for reopening of the school.
“I think we should be in school because we have fun and learn things,” said Brown. “They clean the school and everything. They take our temperature, we stay six feet away, we don’t shout anything, we keep our masks on all the time.”