How NYC’s Catholic schools kept their doors open against all pandemic oddsMay 24, 2021
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When moms and dads drop off their children at a school, they do so on the basis of an underlying promise from educators: Your children are safe with us.
Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York reaffirmed that promise to parents back in September 2020, when we reopened our doors — full-time, five days a week — to thousands of children. Those kids’ families weren’t immune from the hardships caused by a year of growing isolation and shrinking opportunity. Few of us had anticipated a global pandemic, much less how severely it would throw our world off-balance.
But Catholic schools have stood by families through troubles past. Generations of families have relied on the consistency of Catholic schools to help students thrive in the face of the challenges from the world around them. I’m proud of our educators and their heroic service to ensure the archdiocesan schools are still the safest, healthiest place for our students to succeed.
Earlier than many other private or public districts around the country, archdiocesan schools have been open five days a week for in-person learning while offering remote options when necessary. To this day, our buildings undergo extensive cleaning and sanitation efforts as we follow the advice of government officials and medical experts. We have unambiguous guidelines on testing, social distancing and masking.
Our pastors, principals, dedicated faculty and staff and generous supporters worked tirelessly to put all these health and safety protocols in place — and continue to make sure they are followed.
We made every effort imaginable, often despite external bureaucratic roadblocks, to keep our promise to parents. As a school system that thousands of working-class households and many communities of color rely on, we know how hard the pandemic hit the most vulnerable families.
We also saw first-hand the increase in the need for the services and resources that our Catholic schools provide. Despite those who think our schools and enrollment are in free-fall, since September, more than 2,000 families have reached out to Archdiocese of New York schools about applying for the academic year. More than 1,000 new families enrolled, and our staff continues to receive thousands of enrollment inquiries for the 2021-22 school year. We’re excited to meet this growing demand.
But the students that we have now, those who faced down the chaotic world around them, are also impressing us with their own commitment to excellence. Standardized test scores for our Catholic schools consistently outpace those of the state, New York City and most charter-school averages, and 99 percent of our high-school students remained on track to graduate, more than 15 points higher than the national average.
And now we can make another promise to families for the upcoming school year: Starting September 2021, our schools will be offering in-person learning only, leaving both hybrid and remote learning behind and fully recommitting to the formula for success that countless families have come to expect of our schools.
And that recommitment comes with new investment. In addition to the enriched academic programming that families have come to expect, our students will have access to enhanced social-emotional and mental-health support, especially coming out of what has been a traumatizing pandemic experience for so many New Yorkers. And as with our fundamental educational work, students and their families can be best served by accessing these resources in person.
When parents choose to send their students to our Catholic schools, they want their children to receive a world-class education centered on values and virtue. They want their kids to grow up to be well-rounded adults in constant pursuit of truth and service. The pandemic hasn’t changed that aspiration, nor our centuries-old promise to those parents and their families.
Timothy Dolan is the cardinal-archbishop of New York.
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