The pandemic leads to an increase in enrollment in Catholic schools

According to the National Catholic Educational Association, enrollment in Catholic schools rebounded in the 2021-2022 school year, reaching record highs in some dioceses. Registrations rose from 1.63 million to 1.69 million, a jump of 3.5%.

“While statistics show enrollment has yet to reach pre-pandemic levels – 1.74 million students enrolled in 2019 – the reversal is notable, as prior to the pandemic enrollment tended to decline by 2 % to 3% per year,” according to the National Catholic Record.

How quickly Catholic schools reopened for classroom instruction during the pandemic has been a big difference.

“Catholic schools, overall, reopened for in-person instruction after COVID-19 closures much earlier than their public counterparts – most in September 2020. While 43% of public schools and 34% of charter schools were offering in-person learning in As of September 2020, 92% of Catholic schools were offering in-person learning at the same time, according to the NCEA.

The change is notable because enrollment in Catholic schools was down before the pandemic. As school choice booms in the United States, could Catholic schools be an essential part of it?

The answer is yes, according to local Catholic leaders.

Schools in the Diocese of Charlotte and the Diocese of Raleigh have seen a significant increase in student enrollment since the pandemic.

According to its website, the Diocese of Raleigh has seen its current total membership increase by 8.4% in 2021-2022 and another 2.2% this year, for a 10.6% increase over two years, bringing the number total of students currently enrolled in 28 diocesan. schools to 9,467.

The projected system-wide enrollment number for the 20 schools in the Diocese of Charlotte for the new school year is 7,927 students. That’s an increase of 4.4% from last year and 15% from the 2019-20 school year, when the pandemic began.

Courtesy of the Diocese of Charlotte

More than 96% of families enrolled in diocesan schools during the pandemic have remained, even after their former schools have reopened or returned to normal.

Dr. Gregory Monroe, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Charlotte, told the Carolina Journal that various factors could be attributed to the growth of schools in the diocese during the pandemic.

Doing what is best for children for their learning potential is, first and foremost, the most important thing, and this, he says, has been accomplished by ensuring that lessons remain in person. , albeit safe, 99% of the time thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We had this holistic mentality of everyone working together to prioritize what was best for students, and now that we are coming out of the pandemic, all the research shows that learning losses were really minimized if we babysit in person,” Monroe said.

They also try to differentiate themselves from private schools and do not have an admission test to be able to attend. “We really want to be a place where people of all races and faiths can come in and feel welcome and supported,” he said.

Moore said it’s important to note that about 20% of the schools’ population are non-Catholics, and they’ve doubled the number of people of color on their staff and the number of students enrolled in the course. of the past five years.

Both dioceses attribute some of the growth to financial aid programs like the Opportunity Scholarship Program that helps underserved populations who otherwise could not attend diocesan schools. Last year, more than 900 students enrolled in Raleigh Diocesan Schools received Opportunity Scholarships. This year, that number is expected to be over 1,100.

Moore said they also fundraise internally for families wishing to attend their schools.

All students in the Diocese of Charlotte graduate and 96% go on to college. Moore attributes this to the school system providing pathways for all learners to succeed by focusing on character building, leadership skills, and critical thinking in a Christian environment.

“Each student is given to us in a unique way by God. Everyone has a unique set of skills and talents, and so because of that, we need to find ways for that student to be successful,” he said.

Moore said surveys show parents recognize their schools’ academics are strong, where the emphasis is on communication, reading, writing and critical thinking.

He said having a very family-centered environment was key to supporting families and working together for the best education for their children.

“We really see our work as supporting parents as primary educators, and I think that’s been very well received by our local communities,” Moore said. So as a Catholic school we couldn’t do all the good things we do without an ‘all in’ mentality from everyone in it, which means as a parent we we expect them to be in the schools. ”

Moore said parents are encouraged to help their children by working with them on homework and engaging in different parenting events and activities. It allows each parent to get involved in the life of the school. “They’re playing a real leadership role in helping chart the future of what this school is,” he said. “They said they really appreciate it. It’s not about politics, it’s about people. »

He also credits more people moving to the area from other states who have already sent their children to Catholic schools and having parents as ambassadors in publicizing the schools as other reasons for the growth.

The diocese has been working on projects, including new classroom spaces and buildings, to cope with the influx of students throughout the pandemic and beyond.

There is currently a waiting list for a handful of its schools. A long-term planning committee reviews future strategic planning processes.

Moore said the future of schools depends on the quality of their services to families and their children. “We recognize that parents know their children best, so they will choose the education that is best for their child,” he said. “We really want to provide this personalized education for every student. We want to grow intentionally and in a way that really keeps the focus on what’s best for the students and families who come to us.

The Diocese of Raleigh is also studying the feasibility of a new diocesan high school to serve the Triangle area.

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