2010-06-04 / Top Stories

Rockaway Catholic Schools May Lose Nurses

Schools Have Fewer Than 300 Students
By Nicholas Briano

Parochial schools with fewer than 300 students, which includes two small Rockaway schools, are scheduled to soon lose their New York City provided nursing services as part of Mayor Bloomberg’s drastic budget cuts.

In an effort to save the city $3.1 million, both St. Mary Star of the Sea School on Central Avenue in Far Rockaway and Rockaway Park’s St. Camillus School, which is located on Rockaway Beach Boulevard at Beach 110 Street, are on the list of 146 parochial schools that will lose their nurses if the budget measure is passed by the City Council and approved by the mayor.

The cuts present the parochial schools with a financial problem all their own.

According to state law, all parochial schools, regardless of school enrollment, are required to have a school nurse on staff, meaning that the already financially strapped Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, which includes Queens parishes, will have to come up with the extra money in their budget to fund the nurses when the city money dries up.

According to published reports, no unionized nurses will be laid off and some schools may be able to receive an exemption from the cuts. But only if they meet specific criteria in terms of the health needs of the students who are enrolled in the school.

Staten Island Councilmember James Oddo has introduced a bill, however, that will protect the smaller schools and ensure the continuity of city-provided nursing services within parochial schools.

The bill will counter Bloomberg’s proposal and ensure that any school, public or private, will be required to have a publicly-funded nurse on staff if the school’s enrollment exceeds 100 students.

Diocese officials are confident that Oddo’s proposal will pick up a lot of support and they say that they don’t understand why Catholic schools sould be targeted when they already save taxpayers money each year by privately funding their operations.

“We support Oddo’s bill and are confident that these cuts will be rolled back,” Rev. Msgr. Kieran E. Harrington of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn said. “Our schools are a refuge for the middle class. Many of our children have health issues that are not identifiable.”

Harrington says that the mayor has historically been a supporter of Catholic schools and doesn’t yet realize the affect these cuts could have on students.

Bloomberg first proposed cutting nurses from parochial schools in 2002, but in 2004 a law was passed by the Council stating a school with 200 students or more is entitled to a school nurse.

However, mayoral spokesperson Marc LaVorgna told the New York Times this week that the existing law would be moot if the budget cuts were approved by the City Council.

“If there are not dollars appropriated, those schools would not have nurses,” he told the Times.

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