Brooklyn Diocese Catholic School Speaks Out on HEROES Act COVID-19 Relief Bill Snub

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By Jessica Easthope

Students filing in to Bay Ridge Catholic Academy can’t enter their classrooms without a temperature check. Once they get to their classrooms, on all of their desks and the walls of every classroom is hand sanitizer.

The precautions the school is taking to make sure its in-person mode is safe and successful come with a price tag.

“The superficial cost of the pandemic for PPE ranges into the tens of thousands and the larger costs associated with the smaller class sizes that we’ve agreed to partner with the state on losses can total into the hundreds of thousands,” said Kevin Flanagan, the principal of the newly merged school.

Bay Ridge Catholic Academy is among the tens of thousands of Catholic and other non-public schools left out of the HEROES Act. The proposed legislation would allocate $182B of pandemic relief for kindergarten through twelfth grade public schools only.

“The fact that we were not included is terribly disrespectful to all the schools that are open for live instruction every day, we proved that instruction can occur daily, safely,” Flanagan said.

This is the latest blow to American Catholic education. 150 Catholic schools closed for good this year — 26 were in New York City.

“This has been for a devastating time for Catholic schools they have spent millions of dollars to reopen and they’ve had no outbreaks – why because they’ve spent the money on disinfecting and social distancing and rearranging things,” said Dennis Poust, the Director of Communications for the New York State Catholic Conference.

Earlier this month Bishop Michael Barber, who leads the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, released a statement about the HEROES Act.

“It is unconscionable that this latest aid proposal would exclude these American children and the schools they attend from emergency aid that would ease the financial burdens they have borne as a result of the pandemic,” Bishop Barber said.

“So many of our parents who send their kids to our schools, they’re blue collar parents and they’re first responders and yet the House Democrats are turning their backs on them and it’s really such a shame,” said Poust.

Bay Ridge Catholic Academy parents say the current proposal for the HEROES Act is unfair.

“There needs to be equity. Our Catholic schools are doing a great job at keeping us open and educating our children while the public schools are going hybrid or remote and they’re getting the funding,” said Michelle Gellar, a parent with two children in the school.

“It’s important that the schools are open and the kids are in school, and to do that we need funding and any funding we can get would be a great help,” said John Cafiero, another parent.

Negotiations over the HEROES Act are ongoing. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has requested ten percent of what’s being afforded to public schools be given to non-public schools.