Parents from a Sheepshead Bay Catholic school rallied against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new COVID-19 regulation closing schools in COVID-19 hotspots, arguing that the learning center hasn’t contributed to any coronavirus spikes.
“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,” said parent Denise Moriarty, whose children attend Good Shepherd Catholic Academy. “We feel it is unfair to blanket us with the hot spot.”
The protest came one day after Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered all schools to close in nine ZIP codes with daily COVID-19 positivity rates above three percent. ZIP code 11229 — which covers Gerristen Beach, Homecrest, and Sheepshead Bay — had a daily positivity rate of more than four percent as of Monday, according to city data.
On Thursday, Cuomo closed a second round of schools, as well as non-essential businesses, according to a map of the outbreak’s epicenters. This “cluster map” divides the city into red, orange, and yellow zones, and requires schools in red and orange zones to switch to online learning.
Though schools closed under the original ZIP code plan must remain shuttered, Good Shepherd Academy would have to close under the new rules anyway, since it’s in a red zone. But parents and administrators say that the school’s precautions could have kept transmission rates low.
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 stings to be lumped into an arbitrary ZIP code. ZIP codes were made for mail, not for people,” he said. “Five weeks, zero cases. They’ve spent a tremendous amount of money into retrofitting this building – humidifiers, air purifiers, temperature scanners, PPE.”
Evans clarified that the community isn’t against closing if necessary, but said the school hasn’t reached that point.
“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,” he said.
Joan McMaster, associate superintendent for the Brooklyn Diocese, 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.”
The principal of Good Shepherd said he was “disappointed” by the new restrictions.
“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.”
This article first appeared on AMNY.com.