NYC’s Private Schools Brace for Lockdown with Covid Rate Spike

The first thing the parents noticed on Friday night were the large bags.

Students at Nightingale-Bamford on the Upper East Side were among those bringing home the carriers, just in case they wind up in lockdown.

The school, like others in New York, plans to stay open next week, but in an uncertain world, administrators decided, there’s no downside to being prepared — a lesson learned earlier this year when belongings were stuck in lockers and cubbies for months.

The migration of books, guitars, gym clothes and laptops came as Covid-19 rates approached 3% in the city and state-wide, and Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City schools could close on Monday. Private schools aren’t bound to follow the mayor, but would be compelled by an order from Governor Andrew Cuomo, as schools in “red zones” in Queens and Brooklyn experienced last month, before state testing and screening guidelines allowed private schools to reopen.

For now, the city’s elite private schools — where tuition is about $55,000 a year — are trying to stay open, but are ready for a battening of the hatches after months of planning. A closing could happen without state intervention. The welfare of teachers and staff is a factor. Schools will also take into account their roughly two-month runs of in-person instruction with low incidences of the virus.

The actual number of in-person days lost would vary in a lockdown. Most private schools have already added all-remote instruction around the Thanksgiving and winter breaks. The campus of Horace Mann School in the Bronx plans to remain open for seven days of classes, before it goes remote through Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Nightingale’s calendar has in-person instruction until mid-December, with remote instruction the first two weeks of January.

Here’s what some schools have said about their plans:


“The school is continuing to watch the situation closely, with the goal of remaining open for in person learning as long as it is safe to do so,” said Jan Abernathy, the school’s director of strategic communications.


Head of School David Lourie told parents that decisions will take into account city and state guidelines and requirements, as well as “our own experiences in the building to date, and the decisions of other schools in the city.” He noted the faculty “is ready to shift seamlessly to Collegiate Online.”


Convent of the Sacred Heart, an all-girl’s Catholic school, told parents it’s monitoring the situation.


Horace Mann Head of School Thomas Kelly said while it will “take a close look at what the data looks like in NYC next week, we’ll do our best to remain open as planned.”


“We certainly hope to be in school next week,” a letter to parents at Nightingale-Bamford said. The school directed students to take their school supplies home “in the event we need to transition to remote learning.”


“Our independent decision-making process will be informed by the guidelines and requirements issued by the city and state, the Department of Health and our own numbers, as we work with our advising group of physicians and the Board of Trustees Virus Task Force,” Spence Head of School Bodie Brizendine wrote to parents. “Unless you hear from us, assume that our current schedule remains in place.”


This coed school plans to offer in-person “as long as the governor’s guidelines allow or as long as it seems prudent and safe for our students and faculty,” the head of school, Scott Reisinger, wrote to parents.

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