Students at Queens’ St. Francis Preparatory School test positive for COVID-19

A view of St. Francis Preparatory School in the Queens
St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows

A group of students and teachers at the city’s largest Catholic high school, St. Francis Preparatory High School in Fresh Meadows, are now in quarantine after a senior student tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week, according to an email sent to parents obtained by amNewYork Metro. 

This is not the first time the Queens prep school has had to battle an infectious disease within its walls. In 2009, the school became the epicenter of the swine flu pandemic in New York City. 

“At this point, we are not aware of any related student having any symptoms,” Principal Patrick McLaughlin wrote in the email to parents. “The students in the classes of this student and their parents have been notified. The teachers have also been notified and will teach their classes remotely from home.” 

School administration was informed late Tuesday night that a senior student tested positive, the email says. Quarantine for the student and their contacts is scheduled to end on Friday, Oct. 9.  It is unclear how the student contracted the virus and when they received their COVID test results.

The city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene declined to comment, and St. Francis Preparatory High School did not immediately respond to a request for comment from amNew York Metro. 

Fresh Meadows is one of the newest neighborhoods to experience a spike in COVID cases. The number of residents testing positive for the virus in the area, and its neighboring Hillcrest, is now at 2.98%, according to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Last week, the city reported that COVID cases in eight Brooklyn and Queens zip codes were increasing at an “alarming” rate pushing the citywide transmission rate above 3% for the first time in months.

The new clusters come as city elementary, middle and high schools reopen to students for the first time in six months. Officials have said that public schools will close if the city’s seven-day rolling average of COVID positive cases reaches 3% and individual schools will be closed for 24-hour periods if there are two reported cases not connected by cohort or classroom within a seven day period. 

Private schools in areas experiencing recent increases in COVID cases will close for two weeks if administrators report two positive cases of the virus among students or staffers, according to DOH. If a single case is reported, administrators are only required to close off the classroom where the infected person taught or took classes for 14 days and ask all close contacts to quarantine at home for two weeks.

Earlier this month, another student tested positive for the virus but St. Francis administrators did not need to contact peers or teachers since DOH confirmed the student had not come into close contact with others during their “infectious time period, the letter says.  

In the letter, McLaughlin assures parents that the school is being cleaned thoroughly to meet COVID health standard since the building will remain closed to students and teachers for the rest of the week due “technology issues.” 

In-person classes for the affected cohort of students is still set to resume on Monday, Oct. 5.  St. Francis started in-person classes on Sept. 9 and 11, with students entering the building Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.