Eleven of the Diocese of Rochester’s Catholic elementary schools are within the boundaries of New York state’s COVID-19 micro-cluster focus zones, but what that means varies from school to school, and even from day to day.
Four of the schools are in orange warning zones, and another seven are in yellow precautionary zones, and each zone brings its own set of stipulations and restrictions.
On Nov. 23, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that portions of Brighton, Irondequoit, Gates and the City of Rochester were transitioning from yellow precautionary zones to orange warning zones. Schools in newly designated orange zones are required to close their buildings and switch to remote instruction for at least four calendar days and undergo deep cleaning, according to the state’s Forward NY website. These schools may reopen as early as the fifth day if they can ensure that every person on campus, staff and students alike, is tested for COVID-19 and receives a negative result.
Seton Catholic School and St. Ambrose Academy fall within the newly designated orange zone in Monroe County. Both schools planned to begin their previously scheduled Thanksgiving break Nov. 25 and were arranging for COVID-19 testing to begin Nov. 30, “with a return to in-person learning as early as possible,” according to James Tauzel, superintendent of the Diocese of Rochester’s Catholic schools.
“They have worked with the Monroe County Department of Health to secure the test kits and will use the break to conduct a deep cleaning of the buildings,” Tauzel told the Catholic Courier Nov. 24.
In Chemung County, Holy Family Catholic School in Elmira and St. Mary Our Mother School in Horseheads have been operating via remote instruction since their locales were designated as orange zones in late October.
“Chemung County schools remain in remote instruction, as they have not been able to secure the necessary number of tests to reopen through the county health department,” Tauzel said.
Seven Catholic schools in Monroe County are in a yellow precautionary zone that was designated Nov. 9. At that time, all schools in this zone were told they needed to test 20 percent of their school populations each week in order to remain open. This testing began the week of Nov. 16 and yielded good results, Tauzel said.
“During the week of Nov. 16-20, our nine Monroe County Catholic schools conducted 397 tests, all of which yielded negative results,” he said in a Nov. 20 letter to the nine schools’ principals.
Based on these initial good results and in accordance with the most recent guidance issued by the New York State Department of Health, the Monroe County Catholic schools that remain in the yellow zone are not required to conduct any further testing under this current zone designation, Tauzel said.
This lack of COVID-19-positive results in the schools provides “good reassurance that the health and safety measures we have in place are working and that our families are being vigilant about following guidance that allows us to continue in-person learning,” Tauzel told the Courier.Tags: Catholic Schools, COVID-19 Pandemic