NYC Catholic schools in session while pandemic closes public schools
by Christine Rousselle
CNA Staff, Nov 19, 2020 / 04:00 pm MT (CNA).- Catholic schools in New York City will remain open for in-person learning on a school-by-school basis even as the city’s public schools have closed amid a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We intend to keep our buildings open regardless of decisions made by Mayor de Blasio regarding NYC public schools,” Superintendent Michael Deegan said in a Nov. 14 letter to parents of Catholic school students in the Archdiocese of New York.
When the letter was sent, there was expectation that New York’s public schools would soon close to in-person learning.
On Nov. 18, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that public schools would “temporarily” suspend in-person classes.
The decision to suspend in-person learning in public schools was made after one set of data found that the city’s coronavirus test positivity rate was 3%. Metrics shared by Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a press conference Wednesday, however, stated that the city’s positivity rate was 2.5%, not yet at the anticipated threshold for school closure.
On Thursday, Cuomo was part of a bipartisan group of governors from the northeast who signed a statement calling in-person learning the “best possible scenario” for children.
“Our Catholic schools operate independently of New York City public schools,” said Deegan in his letter.
He said that if public schools were to close, the archdiocese’s schools “will remain open until the Health and Safety Task Force of the Office of the Superintendent, working with officials from the New York State Department of Health and the governor’s office determines otherwise.”
Deegan wrote that his schools would remain open “for as long as safety allows.”
The Diocese of Brooklyn, whose territory includes the New York City boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn, issued a similar statement on November 15.
“Every member of our school community has truly dedicated themselves to keeping our schools as safe as possible in the wake of this Coronavirus pandemic, and the results prove these efforts have worked,” said Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese.
“For more than eight weeks, we have been able to maintain in-person learning for our students, mostly five days a week, and we intend to keep doing so going forward this school year,” he said, adding that it is “critical” for child development to keep schools open.
“Our children want to be in the classroom and we want them to be there for as long as safely possible,” said Chadzutko.
On Twitter, Deegan stated that the city’s two Catholic dioceses “stand united” on the issue of keeping schools open.
“As long as we remain vigilant on the health and safety of our school communities–which we have been–we should be able to educate our children in the best way possible,” said Deegan on November 16.
The Diocese of Brooklyn has 69 Catholic schools; the Archdiocese of New York administers 172 schools. Combined, the two school systems educate approximately 84,000 children in grades kindergarten through 12. New York City’s public schools started the in-person school year on September 29, nearly three full weeks after the Catholic schools began classes in-person on September 9.
While cases of coronavirus have continued to spike throughout the country, schools have largely not been the sources of these infections.
According to Public Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza on Wednesday, only 0.19% of teachers in the city had tested positive for coronavirus.