Tuesday, September 26Hampton Roads Weekly

Catholic Schools: Boldly Putting Kids First

By Kerry Dougherty

Any parent of a kid with disabilities will tell you, more than anything else in the world, their child just wants to fit in.

Not easy when you’re a little different.

My son doesn’t mind if I tell you he has severe learning disabilities. He’s worked hard his whole life to overcome them. But I still remember his look of surprise and relief on the morning of his first day of 1st grade at St. Gregory the Great in Virginia Beach.

We held hands as we walked from the parking lot to the line for his class. He was taking deep breaths and squeezing my hand. 

Then he caught sight of his classmates and his first-day nervousness evaporated .

“We’re all wearing the same thing!” he exclaimed.

The 26 or so children in his class were all dressed as he was, in khaki shorts, polo shirts with the school logo, brown shoes and socks. 

In that moment I saw the genius behind school uniforms. They give every kid – even the ones who struggle to keep up – a sense of belonging.

Over the years I’ve launched plenty of criticism at the Catholic church. From the molestation scandals to more minor things like unsanitary practices at mass: holy water, communal cups and rampant hand-holding. 

Not today.

A few days ago Kelly Lazzara, the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Richmond, boldly announced that Catholic schools will be open for “in-class instruction.” Five days a week. 


She made this decision even before the American Academy of Pediatrics  issued its statement saying kids need to be back in the classroom. The AAP suggests social distancing of 3 feet instead of 6 and putting more pint-sized riders on buses than the CDC’s nutty one-child-every-other-row would allow.

Oh, and the umbrella organization of 67,000 pediatricians acknowledged that the risk of the coronavirus to kids appears to be low.

Policy makers must also consider the mounting evidence regarding COVID-19 in children and adolescents, including the role they may play in transmission of the infection. SARS-CoV-2 appears to behave differently in children and adolescents than other common respiratory viruses, such as influenza, on which much of the current guidance regarding school closures is based. Although children and adolescents play a major role in amplifying influenza outbreaks, to date, this does not appear to be the case with SARS-CoV-2. Although many questions remain, the preponderance of evidence indicates that children and adolescents are less likely to be symptomatic and less likely to have severe disease resulting from SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, children may be less likely to become infected and to spread infection. Policies to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 within schools must be balanced with the known harms to children, adolescents, families, and the community by keeping children at home.

As public schools suck their thumbs and concoct cockamamie plans like two days in class and three days of virtual “learning”, Catholic schools are the first to do what’s in the best interest of the students.

Good for them. Other private schools – not held hostage by recalcitrant teachers unions – will no doubt follow suit.

If public schools remain stuck in unworkable reopening models because teachers refuse to return to the classroom or superintendents are afraid to reopen fully, parents of school-aged children should be eligible for property tax rebates that they can use for private school tuition.

Call ‘em vouchers. I don’t care. Just get the kids back to school.