Florida has become a center of the US coronavirus outbreak of late, with infections on the rise over the past few months.
From a pro-life standpoint, Pastura said, the schools in his diocese will be doing comprehensive testing for their employees, and other measures such as social distancing in the classroom to protect the students.
On Monday, the Diocese of St. Petersburg sent a letter to the parents of its nearly 13,000 students asking them to sign a waiver of liability, choosing to accept the risk that their children may be sickened by coronavirus at school.
Several other dioceses in Florida and a number of others across the country are asking parents of students returning to class in-person to sign similar waivers.
Pastura said for the most part, parents are accustomed to signing waivers for almost any activity their child does. The diocese had in spring drafted a waiver for summer camps, and early in the summer began to consider adapting it for the school year, as well.
All schools are giving the option of coming back in person, or doing online learning for students in high-risk medical categories, or who may have high-risk people in their households, Pastura said.
The idea, he said, was to create a "statement of understanding" for parents, make them aware that a child could contract coronavirus despite the school's best efforts.
"Since this is just such uncharted territory, we thought it was important for people to first realize that we are doing all kinds of plans to make sure that our students and our employees are safe, and we're trying to make sure we do this the right way."
However, Pastura said, the school cannot possibly know what children are being exposed to outside the seven hours a day they spend at school.
"The release from liability— is it overly cautious? Maybe," he said.
"But we do live in a very litigious society, and we just thought it to be prudent...providing families with a very clear statement, I think that's the responsible thing to do, I think it's the fair thing to do."
Being asked to sign a waiver for any activity can raise red flags for people, Pastura said, and because there is so much uncertainty around coronavirus, it is understandable that parents may not understand the importance of the waiver.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
Pastura said he and his Catholic school colleagues at other dioceses across Florida speak regularly about their reopening plans. He said he hopes that parents will trust those in authority over the state's Catholic schools, and recognize that those authorities are creating reopening plans with students' best interests at heart.
"There's a lot that goes into these decisions, and sometimes we just have to have some faith in one another. Even if we don't agree with someone's decision, maybe we can accept that it was made in good confidence based on the information available."
The superintendent of schools for the Pensacola-Tallahassee diocese has also spoken out about the importance of opening Catholic schools in person.
"We feel that their spiritual growth is vital to them. We're educating the whole child, and spiritually is a big part of that," superintendent Mike Juhas told EWTN News Nightly.
Elsewhere, the bishops of California said this week that Catholic schools in California are taking appropriate measures against the threat of coronavirus and authorities should issue waivers to rules that bar the schools from reopening for “vital” in-person education, citing the low risk of coronavirus infection among children.
Initially, the nation’s largest Catholic archdiocese of Los Angeles, with 74,000 students attending its schools, announced on June 15 that schools would be reopening for in-person learning in the fall in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Santa Barbara.