In an email to our Catholic School Communities today, Superintendent of Schools in the Archdiocese of New York Mr. Michael J. Deegan wrote:
We are very proud to say that since March 2020, Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of New York have been nationally recognized as proactive leaders with every major health decision faced by school systems across the country, and in many cases, even health departments. Our health protocols and procedures, seen by some as too rigorous, have proven to be exceedingly effective in mitigating this pandemic and keeping our children and staff healthy and safe. The fact remains that nearly all positive cases have been brought into our schools from outside activities (e.g., family gatherings, athletic activities, play dates, birthday parties, and certainly community spread). Based on contact tracing, we know our guidelines have been successful because transmission within our school system remains at .00247%. In other words, 99.99753% of the positive cases reported to our schools since September 2021 were from outside the protective safety bubble of the schools.
When we published our opening plan Catholic Schools: We Continue to Soar! in the summer of 2021, we anticipated and recognized that modifications to our protocols would be needed to reflect the evolving status of the virus. Since September 2021, the Health and Safety Task Force, informed by government health agencies, has adjusted the mitigation strategies and isolation and quarantine policies accordingly, keeping our children and teachers safe. Our preeminent guiding principle for all our policies has been and will continue to be protecting our children and staff.
Faithfulness to daily checklists, temperature checks, social distancing, class and group cohorts, teaching pods, monitoring for symptoms, isolation rooms, improved ventilation in our schools: installing exhaust fans in each classroom, adding HEPA filtration units, and increasing the disinfecting and sanitizing with a dedicated staff have all been successful. Each of these is a layer of mitigation.
Another layer of mitigation for each individual has been wearing a mask. In light of the announcement made by New York State Governor Kathy Hochul today, we are no longer legally obligated by New York State to mandate mask wearing in school as of Wednesday March 2nd. As such effective March 2nd, the wearing of a mask by an adult or children in all Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of New York will be recommended but NOT REQUIRED. We will encourage the continued use of masks but will respect the choice of each parent and staff member. As part of our Catholic values infusion program, students learn we all have a moral responsibility for the good of all and must have respect for everyone. As a school community, we must respect each other’s decisions but remain united as a community of faith. This transition is a truly teachable moment for our children. However, please note that New York City funded 3K and Pre-K for All (UPK 4-year old) programs must continue to wear masks as required by the New York City Department of Education.
Be assured, however, that we will continue to rigorously follow all the strategies that have kept us healthy and safe: maintaining enhanced disinfecting, sanitizing schools (no longer required by the CDC), and deploying additional HEPA filtration units throughout the school system where needed. The change in the mask mandate will not compromise the safety of our children and staff.
While there is NO vaccine requirement for Catholic Schools children, and we will NOT mandate the vaccination of children, getting vaccinated with your booster is another example of a mitigation strategy. It is one of the most important things we can do to remain healthy. If you are unsure about getting your child vaccinated, consult with your pediatrician or trusted health care provider – the doctors who know you and your child best.
As has been done since the beginning of the pandemic, the Health & Safety Task Force of the Superintendent of Schools will continue to evaluate, adjust and communicate with you, knowing that our collective efforts ignite the flame of faith, hope, and love in our children.
Please continue to visit this website for frequent updates and resources for your family.
Mr. Michael J. Deegan
Superintendent of Schools
Archdiocese of New York