Two schools close in Queens after significant spread of COVID-19

(Photo by Jeenah Moon/Pool via REUTERS)

A public elementary school in Astoria shut down Wednesday, Nov. 10, after a COVID-19 outbreak. Another school in Far Rockaway has also closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak, making it the city’s third closure since the school year started.

P.S. 166 Henry Gradstein School in Astoria will be entirely remote for 10 days after an investigation found evidence of transmission within the school, Gothamist first reported. The school was closed on Tuesday, Nov. 9, and will reopen Monday, Nov. 22.  

All students have been equipped with devices to participate in remote learning. 

According to data by the city’s Department of Education (DOE), as of Wednesday, Nov. 10, 176 staff and students tested positive for the coronavirus.

“New York City schools have the gold standard for health and safety — with all school staff vaccinated, and an incredibly low positivity rate of 0.19%,” a DOE spokesperson said. “This is the first school closure since September, but we stand ready to support. Every student at P.S. 166 has a device so they can engage in live remote learning, and we are working closely with the school community.” 

Village Academy in Far Rockaway announced it would also close its doors on Thursday, Nov. 11, due to significant COVID transmission, Chalkbeat first reported.

“We do not hesitate to take action to keep school communities safe, and our multi-layered approach to safety has kept our positivity rate extremely low at 0.19%,” a DOE spokesperson said. “All staff at DOE are vaccinated, and all students at Village Academy have access to a device to ensure live, continuous learning.”

In the last school year, New York City public schools closed when two or more unlinked COVID-19 cases were found within a building. The two-case rule was later dropped in April, with officials announcing at the beginning of the fall that schools would only close if widespread transmission of the virus was found in a building.

Currently, 140 classrooms out of 65,000 citywide are quarantining, according to the DOE.

Vaccines became available to kids ages 5 to 11 earlier this month after the FDA determined the benefits outweighed any potential side effects. This week, the city set up temporary vaccine sites at schools serving students between the ages of 5 to 11 across the five boroughs. More than 10,000 kids have already received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at a school-based vaccination site, according to amNew York Metro.

According to the city’s data, only about 21% of eligible kids are fully vaccinated. 

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