QUEENS, N.Y. — A Far Rockaway public school will temporary close Thursday after health officials found evidence of coronavirus transmission within the school, the city education department said Wednesday. It comes one day after alerts went out that another school in Queens would have to shutter due to the virus.
Village Academy will close Thursday through Nov. 20, according to education officials, who said notifications are being sent to the school community Wednesday night. Students are slated to return to the school Nov. 22.
"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 percent. All staff at DOE are vaccinated and all students at Village Academy have access to a device to ensure live, continuous learning,” an education department spokesperson said in a statement.
The department did not provide further details about the outbreak.
Village Academy is the second New York City public school to close due to COVID-19 this week. On Tuesday, a coronavirus outbreak forced the temporary closure of PS 166, an elementary school in Astoria.
In total, three city schools have closed due to COVID-19 since the start of the school year. P.S. 79 in Harlem shuttered in September for 10 days.
COVID-19 OUTBREAK — PS 166
Students and staff at PS 166 in Astoria will be on remote learning for the next 10 days while Department of Education (DOE) officials investigate the cause of a COVID-19 outbreak inside the elementary school.
According to the state health department, 22 students and three staff members at PS 166 tested positive from Nov. 3 through Nov. 9. Notifications were sent out Tuesday night.
No teachers tested positive.
So far this year, the school has now had a total of 37 positive cases.
Earlier Wednesday, before Village Academy was forced to close, Schools Chancellor Misha Porter and Mayor Bill de Blasio addressed the PS 166 closure at the mayor’s news conference.
"This is our second closure. It is November 10, so that means we are doing something right," said Schools Chancellor Porter.
School closures last school year were more common. The Department of Education changed its metrics for closure from a “two-case rule” — where two unrelated COVID-19 cases in the same school meant the school was forced to go remote — to a more vague statement about finding “widespread transmission” determined by an investigation.
"The standards are entirely different this year because the situation in the city is entirely different," de Blasio said Wednesday. “We have a vast, vast number of New Yorkers vaccinated. We have all adults at our school communities vaccinated.”
In a statement, the DOE said, "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%. This is the first school closure since September but we stand ready to support - every student at PS 166 has a device so they can engage in live remote learning, and we are working closely with school community."
In addition to assistance with remote learning access, the school is offering bagged breakfast and lunch for students. So, despite the school being closed, families may still stop by.
In a statement, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said, "This was the right decision, no one wants to close schools, but it was necessary in this situation to keep students and staff safe."
Coincidentally, PS 166 was scheduled to operate its first COVID-19 vaccine site on Wednesday, the third day the city has held vaccination clinics at schools for five- to 11-year-olds.
The school is scheduled to reopen on Monday, Nov. 22.