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DOE Shuts Down Astoria School Due to COVID-19 Outbreak

P.S. 166 The Henry Gradstein School, located at 33-09 35th Ave. (Google Maps)

Nov. 10, 2021 By Allie Griffin

The city shut down an Astoria public school for 10 days due to a COVID-19 outbreak among students and teachers.

The Department of Education closed the doors of P.S. 166 The Henry Gradstein School beginning Wednesday after 25 positive cases were reported in the last seven days. All classes are being held remotely during the 10-day closure, which ends on Nov. 19.

According to DOE data, 22 students and three staff members tested positive for COVID-19 from Nov. 3 through Nov. 9.

P.S. 166 is only the second school to be fully closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak since the start of the school year. The first was in East Harlem.

The DOE aimed to reduce the number of school closures — which parents said interrupted their childrens’ learning last school year — when it introduced a new COVID-19 policy this term.

The current policy states that schools will only be closed when the city’s health department determines that there is “widespread transmission” in the school. The DOE, however, doesn’t specify how many cases determine the threshold for widespread transmission.

Previously, the DOE shuttered school buildings for two weeks when at least two unrelated coronavirus cases were confirmed. The policy resulted in frequent closures, which parents said created instability and confusion for young students.

The policy change appears to have resulted in fewer interruptions thus far.

Prior to a full closure, the DOE shuttered several classrooms at P.S. 166, meaning full classes of students and their teachers were quarantining and learning remotely.

Since classes began on Sept. 13, there have been 37 total positive cases among the 975 school members — both students and staff — at P.S. 166.

Students will return to in-person classes at P.S. 166 on Monday, Nov. 22.

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