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Coronavirus shuts down private schools in Brooklyn

Brooklyn Friends, Poly Prep, Saint Ann’s announce they will temporarily close.

March 10, 2020 Mary Frost
Brooklyn Friends School in Downtown Brooklyn is one of several private schools in the borough that have shut down due to coronavirus fears. Photo: Mary Frost/Brooklyn Eagle

With spring break due to start next week, private schools in Brooklyn are closing their doors early due to coronavirus fears.

Brooklyn Friends School, a pre-K – high school in Downtown Brooklyn, is shutting down until March 30, Head of School Crissy Cáceres told parents in an email late Monday. The school, which operates from two locations on Pearl and Willoughby streets, will also be canceling spring camps in its family center and lower school.

Cáceres said the school was taking the measure “out of an abundance of precaution and care,” after learning that “a member of our community may have been exposed to a family member who displayed COVID-19 symptoms and was recommended for testing. Due to the shortage of tests, the individual displaying symptoms does not have access to testing at this time.”

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Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights said it will close Wednesday through Friday this week after learning late Monday that an employee “spent time this weekend with a friend whose spouse was diagnosed with COVID-19 sometime yesterday.” That employee and another employee he had contact with over the weekend were both staying home Tuesday as a precautionary measure, Head of School Vincent Tompkins said in a letter to parents on Tuesday.

All Tuesday activities at Saint Ann’s, including the High School Playwriting Festival, were set to continue as planned, Tompkins said. “I will communicate before Monday the decision about whether school will reopen or whether we will be fully online,” he added.

Poly Prep campuses in Dyker Heights will be closing for a week starting at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, according to its website. Parents can access more information on their parent portal online.

As of Monday afternoon, Packer Collegiate in Brooklyn Heights remained open, though some field trips and meeting were cancelled. On Wednesday, Packer will conduct a test of its emergency alert system, according to the school’s website.

New York City is not in a hurry to close public schools if it can be avoided, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a Monday press conference. Rather, the city will selectively close schools with “pinpoint accuracy” to disinfect and clean, then likely reopen after 24 hours, he said.


“So many parents depend on that school, not just for a safe place for their children and education, but for meals,” he said. “We’re not seeing much transmission to children. My goal is to have minimal disruption of schools.”

If a public school does close, the city will try to find other ways to feed the students, de Blasio said.

At P.S. 8 in Brooklyn Heights, parents responded to an appeal for hand sanitizer and six touchless dispensers, and delivery is expected this week.

They received an email on Tuesday saying that doorstops have been added to keep stairwell doors open (eliminating the use of door handles), and that students will be reminded to wash their hands upon arrival and throughout the school day. Bathrooms have been equipped with antibacterial hand soap, and hand sanitizer is available in classrooms.

UPDATE: St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn has announced late Tuesday that it is cancelling all in-person classes and on-campus academic activities for the remainder of the week. Online classes are still in effect.


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2 Comments

  1. Jay Pelc

    How pathetic is this- an intentionally created panic driven by the mainstream media and papers like yours. We are not living in China and check out this “epidemic” compared to an average flu season or compare the mortality rate to that of SARS, Swine Flu, ebola and others ; This is nonsense. Live your lives.