Enrollment in local Catholic schools has increased
Photo by Adriana Heldiz / Voice of San Diego
While many parents have struggled over the past year as to whether to send their children to public school online or in person, others considered a pandemic-era education steeped in religion. .
An example: Inquiries, applications and transfer requests to St. Augustine High School in North Park hit an all-time high this school year, said school admissions director Paul Sipper .
While it is not uncommon to have a waiting list at private Catholic boys’ schools, there was a new intensity among families hoping to secure one of the 700 places for students in grades 9 through Grade 12, he said.
There were over 300 applications for potential freshmen. Requests to transfer to St. Augustine from other schools tripled, some from well-known public schools in Coronado, Point Loma and Poway.
The raffle: in-person education and athletics with required face masks and social distancing. When class size limitations required more space than a classroom could provide, St. Augustine students were grouped into cohorts for alternating outdoor instruction.
“Parents saw how psychologically devastating being off campus was, so they sided with schools that had a plan,” Sipper said. “We have won the trust of our families and their friends.
St. Augustine was aggressive in his push for in-person education: he even filed a complaint in August 2020 against Governor Gavin Newsom seeking to prohibit the execution of closure orders which at the time prevented the reopening of schools. In a press release touting its commitment to safety protocols, the school said it plans to use UV lamps to clean the air, as well as an “electrostatic disinfectant mist system,” among other measures. .
But St. Augustine was not alone among his peers in the region. The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego has been pushing for as much in-person schooling as possible for its affiliate schools across San Diego and Imperial Valley. The initiative has sparked the interest of parents who are watching the education system with eyes tired from the pandemic – how much private school tuition has spent compared to the cost of childcare, academic and social losses. ?
Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego spokesperson Kevin Eckery said Catholic schools at all grade levels in San Diego saw a net enrollment increase of at least 5% for the 2020-2021 school year. Depending on admission activity during the summer, enrollment could increase by 10% when schools reopen in fall 2021.
“We’re looking at some of the best entry numbers in years,” Eckery said.
Carmel Valley Cathedral Catholic High School is increasing the size of its coeducational student body to meet record demand, Eckery said. The first year class will grow from 400 students to 440, from 700 applications. The private school typically has around 1,500 students in total.
Eckery said the pandemic was not just a wake-up call for parents. The influx of new students “shook our thinking” on how enrollment numbers might fluctuate in the future.
Catholic schools in San Diego seem to have overtaken many of their brethren elsewhere in the United States. The number of Catholic school enrollments nationwide has seen its biggest drop in nearly 50 years, according to the National Catholic Educational Association’s 2020-2021 report. statistical report.
Citing school closures linked to COVID-19 and the reduction in class capacity to achieve required social distancing, the national association reports a 6.4% drop in enrollment in U.S. Catholic schools this school year. That’s more than during the clergy abuse scandals in 2003 (registrations fell 2.7%) and an economic downturn in 2008 (when registrations fell 3.5%.)
The NCEA fears that the net loss of 111,000 students in the country, especially among the youngest, may have long-term negative effects on enrollment: “It is disturbing that even in the midst of the prioritization of the ‘in-person learning, many places in them have not been filled.
The economy has been hit by the pandemic, no doubt influencing whether parents choose expensive private schools for their children or opt for more affordable online academics. The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego estimates that the average tuition fees for its Catholic elementary schools are $ 5,630, while the annual tuition fees for high schools are on average $ 15,229.
“We have seen the ripple effects of COVID-19 financially on our families,” Sipper said in St. Augustine, where annual tuition is around $ 24,000.
More than half of the families in St. Augustine already receive some form of financial assistance for tuition fees. The pandemic has prompted school staff to work even harder to ensure that private Catholic education is available to diverse families across the region, he said.
Families who feared returning to campus could withdraw and request that their place be reserved. But from August 2021, this option is no longer on the table.
St. Augustine reported several cases of coronavirus during the 2020-2021 school year. School staff were diligent in tracing contacts, Sipper said, and at one point high school classes came online amid a wave of vacations.
Sipper said private schools have an advantage because there are fewer voters than in large public school systems. Decisions about school closures and communications can be made quickly without debate between teachers’ unions, school boards and families.
“I think how quickly the schools were able to change course was important to their success. Private schools had the easier route, ”he said. “We have a lot of flexibility. At this point, our goal is to get everyone back to campus.
Jennifer McEntee is a freelance writer based in San Diego. Email her at [email protected] or find her on Twitter at @smackentee.
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