NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The Archdiocese of New York and Diocese of Brooklyn both announced Thursday that all students, faculty and staff at Catholic schools will be required to wear masks when the academic year begins in September.
There will be no remote or hybrid options available.
In the absence of a mask mandate, the New York State Department of Health recommends school districts adopt universal indoor masking for all based on guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Archdiocese of New York said students will be grouped into consistent pods each day to reduce the number of students potentially exposed to someone infected with COVID-19, and these pods will remain together throughout the day in the same classroom or other designated areas of the building as much as possible.
Teachers will change locations instead of students, who will eat breakfast in the classroom. All special subjects, including art, music, physical education, language, computers, etc., will be taught in the classroom.
Safety protocols in place include socially distant classrooms with hand sanitizer stations, mandatory temperature checks, daily questionnaires for parents, and masks for anyone who will enter the building.
"We are excited for all of our schools to be open five days a week, for in-person instruction for all students ensuring social distancing can safely be maintained in our buildings under the direct supervision of a teacher," Archdiocese Superintendent Michael Deegan said. "Our number one focus continues to be offering an excellent academic program in a safe and nurturing environment. I'm grateful to the Catholic Schools Re-Opening Advisory Council for their work in updating the manual and to the principals and teachers who will implement it so we may maintain the same bubble of protection for our students and staff that we created over 18 months ago."
The Diocese of Brooklyn includes 69 elementary schools in Brooklyn and Queens.
"As the numbers of coronavirus cases continue to spike in children and the overall numbers of hospitalizations in New York City are on the rise, this is the most responsible approach to take when we begin the new school year," Superintendent Dr. Thomas Chadzutko said. "I know the return to these safety measures is not the situation parents, teachers or students were hoping to be the case in the 2021-2022 school year, but we cannot ignore the trends."
In addition, school officials will continue to encourage vaccinations, social distancing, hand washing and hand hygiene, while maintaining the rigorous daily cleaning and sanitizing of facilities as well as enhanced ventilation.
"Let us do our part from day one to prevent further increase of cases," Dr. Chadzutko said. "If we are successful, as this academic year moves along, we will revisit these guidelines and adjust them accordingly. As much as we want a return to normalcy in our classrooms, we want our students, faculty, and staff to be safe."
Parents will be reminded to keep their child home from school if they are sick, and their child will be required to receive medical clearance from a healthcare provider that they can safely return to in-person instruction.
"Looking at the trajectory of past pandemics, it seems that a virus such as this one does linger for some time even with the vaccination," Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said. "I have received my vaccination and continue to encourage others to do so as well. It is our hope that the COVID-19 vaccines will help bring an end to this terrible virus that has controlled our lives for much of the past year and a half."
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