Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Local Catholic schools challenged

August 31st, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

Today’s D&C features a front page, above-the-fold article on the enrollment challenges facing our local Catholic schools.  While there are some bright spots, the negatives seem to outnumber the positives.  The article sums it up as follows:

enrollments have been shrinking for decades and tuition continues to rise. The declines in the elementary and middle schools pose potential trouble for the Catholic high schools locally.

That trouble crossed the boundary from potential to actual at Nazareth High School, which closed its doors for good this past June due to continuing low enrollment.

Nazareth’s loss seems to be others’ gain:  At Our Lady of Mercy enrollment is the highest it’s been in 30 years and Aquinas is reporting numbers it hasn’t seen in 35 years. Of course, these numbers include students in the schools’ junior high grades, while the old records were for high school programs only.

The news isn’t so good at Bishop Kearney, where enrollment is down some 48 students, or about 9%.  The school was actually expecting a worse fall-off and their president was quoted as saying that BK officials “actually feel pretty good about exceeding our projections.”

The article goes on to cite some national statistics …

Nationwide, enrollment for all Catholic schools has dropped about 20 percent since 1999, according to the National Catholic Education Association. Enrollment for grades 9 through 12 declined about 5 percent in the same period. Catholic school enrollment peaked in the 1960s with about 5.2 million students and almost 13,000 schools. Today, there are about 2.1 million students in about 7,000 Catholic schools.

A brief history of diocesan control of Monroe County’s Catholic schools

In June 1988 there were 39 parish-run, Catholic elementary schools in Monroe County educating 16,044 children. That fall all those schools were removed from parish control and organized into a quadrant system. One year later the downsizing began with the closure of 8 schools.

In the fall of 1994 the quadrant system was replaced by the Monroe County Catholic School System and by 1995-96 we were down to 30 schools and 7,606 students. Loss of students and school closings continued over the next decade and by 2005-06 those numbers had fallen to 24 and 4,806.

June 2008 brought with it the closing of another 13 schools and the following fall the 11 survivors opened with roughly 3,700 students. In 2009-10 that latter number had fallen to 3,446.

This fall two of these schools will revert to parish control and the combined enrollment at the remaining 9 is expected to be down about 100 students.

Nationwide Catholic elementary school data as found in various editions of the Official Catholic Directory shows a 20% decline in the number of schools from 1994 to 2010, along with a 26% decline in the number of students.  In that same period Monroe County has seen a 72% decline in its number of Catholic schools and a 77% decline in Catholic school students.

This is by far the worst record among similar-sized dioceses in the U.S.



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