Catholic churches in New York City urge families to help stop state’s ‘draconian’ hot spot school closures

Parents with their children staged a protest at Good Shepherd School in Madison

Both the Diocese of Brooklyn and the Archdiocese of New York are urging parish school families to call Governor Andrew Cuomo along with other electeds and ask that the state’s “draconian” decision to close all public and private schools in nine zip codes with increasing COVID numbers be reversed, according to a letter sent to parents and educators on Tuesday. 

The diocese and archdiocese argue that the measure is unfairly penalizing Catholic schools for COVID cases outside of their school communities. In the letter, diocese leadership told families that the New York City Department of Health  inspected and approved all schools under the dioceses’ and archdiocese’s control for reopening. Brooklyn Diocese officials claim that since schools reopened last month, there has only been one positive case of the virus reported in the four parish schools located in COVID hot spot zip codes. 

“Rather than judging each school on their individual merits and their fidelity to the protocols set forth by their own administrations, the governor and mayor are painting all institutions with a draconian broad brush,” says the joint letter, signed by the archdiocese and diocese’s respective superintendents of schools, Michael Deegan and Thomas Chadzutko. 

“If other schools cannot meet the standards needed to operate safely, they should indeed be closed until they demonstrate their ability to do so. In the meantime, it is absolutely unfair to be associated with the non compliant schools merely because we share a ZIP code,” the letter adds. 


Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday proposed closing all public and private schools in the nine Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods on Wednesday. On Monday, Governor Cuomo approved the mayor’s proposal but bumped up school closures by a day and said that state officials would release their own geographical criteria for enforcing restrictions. On Tuesday, state officials announced additional restrictions would be placed on non-essential businesses, schools and houses of worship in three color-coded zones around the boroughs’ coronavirus clusters. 

Schools in red zones have already been closed and Mayor de Blasio announced on Wednesday that those in orange zones will be closed beginning Thursday morning, Oct. 8. It is unclear which school in the orange zones will close.

Diocese officials fear that the new restrictions will worsen finances and result in the permanent closure of more Catholic schools. Over the summer, the archdiocese had to close 26 of its schools due lower church donations and school enrollment.

“If we are forced to go remote and our families withdraw from schools, and they are not able to pay their tuition, and I have to close more schools because of it, I’m going to put that at the feet of the governor and I’m going to put that at the feet of the mayor,” said Deegan. 

Neither city nor state officials responded to amNewYork Metro’s request for comment.

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