Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of New York are committed to “two preeminent goals,” according to the archdiocesan superintendent of schools.
The first is “to keep every student and every adult in our schools healthy, safe and protected” and the second is “to reopen all of our schools, five days a week at 100 percent capacity,” said Michael Deegan in a July 28 interview with CNY.
Both measures were “committed to last year and we were able to successfully open in September of last year, and we continue to make the same commitment,” the superintendent said.
The Health and Safety Task Force of the superintendent’s office, Deegan said, continues to monitor the developments that are taking place nationally and locally relative to the coronavirus pandemic.
“As such, we remain in contact with government health professionals as we continue to prepare for the reopening of our schools in September,” he said.
“No later than the middle of August we will publish, as we did last year, our reopening plan document which outlines how we will fulfill our promise of keeping our children and adults healthy, safe and protected, and reopening our schools to be able to provide the excellent educational programs and services” for which the school system is known.
Throughout the last year and a half, the Health and Safety Task Force and the superintendent’s office “have remained committed to the science,” Deegan said, “but we have demonstrated a flexibility and a nimbleness in what we need to do as the pandemic has changed and how the virus has evolved.”
“We will make adjustments and modifications to whatever plan we formulate because that’s how we will ensure the health and safety of the adults and the children.”
“We are very optimistic and we are all looking forward to school reopening in September.”
Reopening being the operative word. “We are not going to be providing remote learning to children who choose to stay home in September,” the superintendent said.
“Our school doors are open for all of our children,” he said. “The reason that we are not going to be providing remote learning to any of our children is, we want them back in school.
“That’s where the children can fully experience the culture and the ethos of a Catholic school. And they can be supported, nurtured and cared for physically in the school building itself. And since we’re working to keep those buildings safe and healthy, we can provide that and want that.”
Enrollment projections are up from this time last year, Deegan said, and “88 percent of families who were new” to the Catholic school system in the archdiocese last year have re-registered.
Enrollment, acceptances and admissions are ongoing. The superintendent of schools encouraged families to access the website catholicschoolsny.org, and examine the school finder feature. “That can help them, and then we can support them in their search for a Catholic school.”
Catholic identity in the schools is an integral part of the education children receive, and that is accomplished in collaboration with parents and parish priests.
“The very fundamental reason and mission that Catholic schools exist is to pass on the faith to the next generation of children,” Deegan said. “The way we do that is to have our children and their parents fully engaged in the life of their home parish.”
Catholic schools, he continued, “support that, encourage that, expect that and provide the support to do it.”
The one thing that defines Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York and Catholic schools across the country, Deegan said, is, “We keep our promises to our families when they send their children to a Catholic school.”
That, he added, “is a defining characteristic of Catholic schools here in the Archdiocese of New York because we put the needs of children before the needs of anyone else or anything else.”
Two examples of promises kept are when children come back to school in September, they will be in a safe and protected environment “and we do everything we can to make sure that we fulfill that promise”; similarly, that an “academically superior education” will be provided to students. “Our assessments, our test scores and our graduation rates substantiate that what we say we do, we are doing, and the data supports it.”
“As superintendent,” Deegan concluded, “when I make decisions, my decisions are based solely on what is best for the child or what’s best for the children...
“And that has been my guiding principle through this pandemic and frankly for as long as I’ve been superintendent.”
A defining illustration, Deegan explained, of why the Catholic school system of the archdiocese has been able to navigate the Covid-19 crisis “is that we are part of something so much bigger than ourselves—that we are, in fact, a part of the Catholic Church, that we are a part of the Archdiocese of New York, and that Cardinal Dolan in particular has committed to providing everything we need to fulfill our promises to our families.”