We're staying open. That's the message from the city's Catholic schools to parents, even if the public schools close amid a spike in COVID-19 cases.
"I'm hoping and praying they stay open. I'm hoping and praying," said one parent. "Because if not, I don't know what we're going to do."
The promise from the Archdiocese of New York, which represents more than 60,000 students in the Bronx, Manhattan and on Staten Island, as well as the Brooklyn Diocese, home to more than 30,000 students in Brooklyn and Queens, comes as the city teeters on closing its public schools if the city's positive covid test rate exceeds 3%. But Catholic schools, which have seen growing enrollment this year as fed-up public school parents leave the Department of Education, say they're not beholden to that plan, and they won't close unless the state says they have to.
"Obviously, if the governor tells us something, because you could see, there's a six-point disparity between the 3% of the city and the 9% that the governor is saying should be. So who do we listen to?" said Tom Chadzutko, the superintendent of the Brooklyn Diocese.
But staying open may be a challenge, if the city doesn't help out.
The Brooklyn Diocese relies on the city to supply its school nurses, transportation and some meals, and has been trying to get confirmation that it will continue to staff those services even if the public schools close.
"You gave us those services on September 9, when we opened our doors. So why would you not grant us those services when we did everything right to open our schools and keep them open?" Chadzutko said.
Catholic schools on Staten Island have their own issues. Much of the borough was declared a yellow zone last week, a designation that requires mandatory testing of 20 percent of school populations.
Without staffing to administer the tests, the Archdiocese closed schools two days last week and blamed the city, which it says is required to provide by law. The Archdiocese says it is prepared to take legal action if the city doesn't comply by Friday.
One parent hopes it doesn't come to that.
"It's just hard for working people to really be able to manage homeschooling full time and maintain jobs full time. So having the schools open is pretty important to me," he told us.
The city says it is working with the city's Catholic schools to help them stay open, though it is not yet clear what exactly that looks like.