Reopen NYC: Diocese of Brooklyn schools show safety protocols for full in-person learning

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The Diocese of Brooklyn plans to reopen the majority of its 66 Catholic Academies and Parish Schools with in-person classes, and on Friday, officials gave a tour to show off the safety measures in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Roughly 95% of students will return to five days a week of physical classes on September 9, and enrollment is up about 22,000 already. Many applicants are essential workers seeking consistent school options for their children.

"Many of our families are working families and they need a school that's in session 5 days a week so they can go to work," said Mark Wilson, principal at St. Mark Catholic Academy in Sheepshead Bay.

Students will each have their temperature checked, and there are 21 hand sanitizer stations throughout the school.

Related: Diocese of Brooklyn details plans for full in-person learning

"I've been told this is my baptism by fire being a new principal here," said Wilson, who took over last year.

Now, he's leading about 25 staff members and 307 students.

"These are our social distancing markers to show students where they should be walking," said Mark Wilson, principal at St. Mark Catholic Academy in Sheepshead Bay. "This used to be the gym...This side is an eighth grade classroom, the other side is sixth grade home room."

More than 2,200 teachers work across the diocese, and they're preparing a plan for testing and waiting for requirements from the Department of Health next week.

"Our teachers want to be back," Wilson said. "There's been no concern from any of them."

Everyone will be in masks, including students in first grade and up. Younger kids will be asked to try.

"We have taken every precaution possible to prevent the virus," Wilson said. "We've added these Plexiglass partisans for all of our office spaces."

Related: Principals' union CSA fires back against NYC schools teaching teams for 'Blended Learning'

About 500 students have opted for fully remote learning, served by digital program with a separate principal and teachers.

Inside the schools, classroom spaces will have HEPA filters, desks are at least 6 feet apart, and signs remind kids to keep socially distant and wash their hands frequently.

Related: Dozens protest Nassau County decision to postpone high school fall sports

But what happens if someone in a school gets COVID-19?

"We will report to Diocese of Brooklyn, the office of the superintendent and Department of Health, and they will take over," Wilson said. "Whatever recommendation that have, we will follow."

They're positive they're ready and praying they've aced the safety curriculum in the age of COVID.

"We need to welcome those kids back," diocese Deputy Press Secretary John Quaglione said. "They need to come back to school. They need to continue to learn and be with their friends, and they need to do it safely. And we're confident of that."

Most of the proposals call for the reopening of Catholic schools in Brooklyn and Queens with five days a week of 100% in-class instruction as well as remote instruction.

"We are pleased with the Governor's recent announcement regarding the re-opening of schools," said Thomas Chadzutko, Ed. D., Superintendent of Schools. "This is a great first step in the right direction to helping our children safely return to the classroom."

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