Catholic Schools to Go to Court Amid Covid Testing Dispute

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Michael Deegan, superintendent of schools for the archdiocese, said that the Catholic schools of the archdiocese are taking to court the disparity in coronavirus testing protocols with public schools.

Deegan spoke Nov. 17, on Cardinal Dolan’s radio show, “Conversation With Cardinal Dolan” on SiriusXM channel 129, the Catholic Channel. “Much to our utter frustration and anger, when we turned to the New York City Department of Education to provide the exact same testing program that they’re doing in the public schools, we were told no. They stepped away from us, they basically said, we’ll give you the kit, but you’re on your own.

“And that is absolutely unfair,” Deegan said. “We’re not asking for anything more than what is being provided for the public school children in New York City and, frankly, throughout this state.”

There is hope. “We have the law on our side,” Deegan said, noting they have worked with the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to reconcile the difference and provide the testing.

“They have failed to do it,” Deegan said. “And as a result of that, the Catholic schools of the archdiocese are going to go to court and argue our case that we are entitled to the same health and safety protocols that the public schools are getting.”

The bottom line, the superintendent of schools concluded, is “all about making sure that our children and our teachers and staffs are protected and that we comply with the law.”

Cardinal Dolan thanked Deegan for his leadership and said, “This is a case of fairness, this is a case of justice, this is a case of religious liberty. The government has the duty to protect all our kids,” emphasizing “all our kids.”

“Where they’re at is secondary,” the cardinal added.

Catholic schools on Staten Island reopened to in-person learning Nov. 16, after a two-day return to remote learning Nov. 12 and 13 as a substantial portion of Staten Island was recently categorized as a yellow zone in conjunction with the coronavirus pandemic.

The yellow zone classification came as the average Covid-19 positivity rates in many areas of Staten Island rose to as high as 5.2 percent and new daily hospital admissions increased.

At issue for Catholic schools is the lack of availability of coronavirus testing, Deegan explained in recent letters to Staten Island Catholic school families posted on the website catholicschoolsny.org. 

The city and New York State “can say they are providing a free test kit,” Deegan continued, “but they are not providing staff, paying for a lab to complete the processing, nor creating the reports which schools must submit to the state. This is not parity under the law.”

Deegan added, “You also may hear New York City public schools are going remote any day. Catholic schools will remain open until we are legally required to close or the Health and Safety Task Force of the Superintendent of Schools determines it is unsafe for our students and staff.”

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