Catholic schools work to overcome challenges from Coronavirus

We have been following and sharing updates on how the coronavirus has impacted public schools, but other educational institutions have been dealt a massive blow by COVID-19 as well.

For example, Catholic schools across the country have had the challenge of unprompted and unplanned distance learning compounded by two other threats, according to an op-ed by Partnership Schools Superintendent Kathleen Porter-Magee in the New York Daily News—a sudden drop in tuition payments from families hardest hit by the downturn and the mass closure of churches “that hold our communities together.”

One week into the school shutdown, it’s clear that the survival of these vital community institutions hangs in the balance. While traditional public and charter schools can navigate this crisis assured of a continued stream of public revenue, the urban Catholic schools that serve our nation’s neediest communities face a dramatic decline in revenue—not because parents don’t want to pay tuition but because they simply can’t.

The low-income families we serve are exactly the people hardest hit by the shutdown of small businesses, and by the loss of hourly jobs across our city and country. And we shouldn’t make them choose between meeting the basic needs of their families and choosing the faith- and values-driven education they so desperately want for their children.

The $2.2 trillion coronavirus emergency aid package unanimously approved by the Senate will provide support for private and public schools. But until that money gets sorted out and gets into the hands of those who need it, short-term steps are needed, Superintendent Porter-Magee continues.

At Partnership Schools, we have taken three immediate steps to help our educational and spiritual community in this time of need: We waived all tuition and fees for our families for the duration of the school closure, we have committed to paying all our staff for the full duration of the school closure including hourly staff like teaching assistants and cafeteria workers and we have established a Family Relief Fund for any Partnership family in need of urgent financial support because of a lost job or unexpected medical bill.

Minnesota has 198 Catholic schools, serving nearly 48,000 students. Thanks to a fundraising raffle program that was supported by numerous communities, 89 participating schools in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota raised more than $1.3 million—a new annual record for the program. The raffle sponsor, St. Paul-based Catholic United Financial, provided all the prizes and promotion materials for the raffle, resulting in 100 percent of the money going to the schools.