CNA Staff, Jul 9, 2020 / 06:15 pm (CNA).- The Archdiocese of New York announced Thursday that 20 of its schools will not reopen, following the coronavirus crisis, and three of its schools will merge.
Michael Deegan, the archdiocese’s Superintendent of Schools, said July 9 that “the reality of these schools being lost is painful, and it was only accepted reluctantly after a detailed study was conducted of their respective fiscal standing in the wake of the coronavirus public health crisis. I have been a Catholic school educator for more than 40 years, and could never have imagined the grave impact this pandemic has had on our schools.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York commented that “I’ve kept a hopeful eye on our schools throughout this saga and my prayers are with all of the children and their families who will be affected by this sad news. Given the devastation of this pandemic, I’m grateful more schools didn’t meet this fate, and that Catholic schools nearby are ready to welcome all the kids.”
Eleven of the schools that will be closed are located in New York City: six in the Bronx, three in Staten Island, and two in Manhattan. Six schools will not reopen in Westchester County, and one each in Orange, Rockland, and Dutchess counties. Another three schools in Orange County will be merged into one.
Some 2,500 students and 350 staff will be impacted by the changes, according to the archdiocese.
No schools are closing or merging in Putnam, Sullivan, or Ulster counties.
The superintendent’s office has said it will help affected families find nearby Catholic schools for the autumn, and that it “is dedicated to working in coordination with the teachers’ union to do everything it can to help faculty of the affected schools to find employment within the Archdiocesan school system.”
The archdiocese said the coronavirus crisis “has had a devastating financial impact on Catholic school families.”
It noted that unemployment and health concerns “have resulted in families’ inability to pay their current tuition, and a significantly low rate of re-registration for the fall,” and that “months of cancelled public masses and fundraising for scholarships have seen a loss of parish contributions which traditionally help support the schools.”
The local Church expects the closures and merge to ensure “the overall fiscal stability and strengthen the vitality of New York Catholic schools for decades to come.”
Deegan commented that “if more assistance is not forthcoming in the longed for HEROES Act now before Congress, I am afraid even more might close.”
The Heroes Act would provide funding for state and local governments, assistance to hospitals, and direct payments to American families along with funding unemployment insurance. The Senate and White House have indicated their opposition to the bill.
In June the US Department of Education said that federal coronavirus aid to private schools is now enforceable by law, following concerns that Catholic and other non-public schools were being excluded from sufficient epidemic relief funds to support protective equipment for students and teachers, cleaning, training in remote education, and distance education tools.
Education Secretary Besty DeVos said on a June 25 phone call with reporters that “While a number of traditional public schools aren’t sure whether they will open their doors in the fall, too many other kinds of schools are sure they won’t open at all. More than 100 private schools, including many Catholic schools, have already announced they will never reopen, and hundreds more face a similar fate.”
The Education Department’s decision is being challenged by a July 7 suit filed by Michigan, California, Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia
The National Catholic Education Association said in June that at least 100 Catholic primary and secondary schools across the US would not be reopening, citing low enrollment and decreased donations amid the coronavirus.
Sister Dale McDonald, public policy director for the NCEA, told CNA that for most Catholic schools about 80% of their operating budget comes from tuition. In addition, many Catholic schools hold major fundraisers in the spring, which had to be cancelled or postponed after the pandemic hit.
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