Westchester Catholic schools in session - for now

It was business as usual Monday at New Rochelle's Blessed Sacrament St. Gabriel High School after a sickout, but other Catholic school teachers in the Bronx took to the picket lines.

The Federation of Catholic Teachers union authorized strikes Monday at St. Barnabas High School, St. Thomas Aquinas, Our Lady of Assumption and St. Philip Neri. Teachers from four schools in Staten Island and Manhattan also stayed clear of classrooms.The same union staged a sickout Friday at three Westchester schools, including Blessed Sacrament. Many parents support Monday's action, but are glad that their kids are back in school, for now.

"I think they should get what they're asking for, but you know [when] the school's closed . . . we're losing out," said parent Donna Olivia.

Pay and health benefits remain sticking points between the union and the New York Archdiocese. The teachers have been working without a contract since the beginning of this year.

During a Mass Sunday in Yorktown, Cardinal Edward Egan said he hoped the issue would be resolved soon. "They're wonderful teachers and we have to do the best we can to give them every help we can and the most money we are able to give, and that's what we try to do," Egan said. "I think we have a wonderful, wonderful offer on the table and I'm hopeful that they will accept it."

Last week, another Catholic teachers' union, the Lay Faculty Association, voted to authorize a strike during Pope Benedict XVI's visit in less than two weeks if an agreement is not reached by then.

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