Hard times push Catholic schools toward crisis


Over the past decade, Brooklyn and Queens Catholic schools have seen increased operational costs and declining enrollment, which have threatened their survival. The average household income of a New York City Catholic school student is $32,000. More than 20 percent of Catholic school students in Brooklyn are not Catholic.

Declining enrollment and heavy financial losses are forcing two Catholic grade schools in Minnesota–one in Minneapolis, the other in St. Paul–to close at the end of the 2009-10 school year.

St. Elizabeth Seton School in north Minneapolis and Trinity Catholic School in St. Paul each have an enrollment of about 100 students.

Because of the two closings, about 23 teachers, four administrators and principals, and six school workers will be laid off.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced in March that it would close two more Catholic schools because of declining enrollment.

Saint Benedict elementary school in Philadelphia and Saint Ann elementary school in Bristol closed at the end of the academic year in June.

Only five students re-registered to attend Saint Ann next year after officials announced tuition would be $4,000 per parishioner and $5,000 per non-parishioner.

This past year’s enrollment at Saint Benedict, in Philadelphia’s East Germantown neighborhood, was 164. That number was projected to fall to 150 next year.

Declining enrollment and higher costs also forced all-girls Catholic high school in Sacramento, Calif., to close its doors.

In a letter to parents, Loretto High School principal Helen Timothy said only 80 prospective students sat this year for entrance exams that normally draw 175 girls.

The 54-year-old school already had seen enrollment drop from 559 girls three years ago to 389 this year.

Timothy said increased competition from other private and charter schools and rising transportation costs for parents meant the decline was likely to continue. The school closed in June.

Tuition was more than $11,000 per student each year and did not include books, uniforms, athletics, and other programs.

Six Fort Wayne-area Catholic schools have three more years to increase enrollments and improve after Bishop John D’Arcy overruled a recommendation to merge the schools.

The schools will have to meet specific goals such as attracting more students, increasing test scores, and publicizing their finances to parishioners.

The bishop’s decision came after a committee recommended in October that the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese merge the schools because of dwindling enrollment and money.

Diocesan schools superintendent Rev. Stephen Kempinger has said the merger would save the diocese about $1 million annually.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Links:

Archdiocese of Baltimore

Archdiocese of Brooklyn

National Association of Independent Schools

National Independent Private Schools Association

National Catholic Educational Association

Laura Ascione

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