By Anne Marie Amacher
Enrollment is holding steady with a slight increase at Catholic schools in the Diocese of Davenport for the 2013-14 school year. Overall enrollment grew by 48 students for a total of 5,149 students in preschool through high school.
Lee Morrison, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, offers “heartfelt gratitude to parents who are Catholic and non-Catholic who make the choice to send their children to Catholic schools.” (See full data by school here).
While encouraged by the slight increase, Morrison said challenges are on the horizon because of lower birth rates that impacted this year’s preschool and kindergarten enrollment.
He asks parents of students in diocesan schools to share with others what the Catholic schools have to offer.
Andy Craig, president of Assumption High School in Davenport, said enrollment grew by 30 students this year. The matriculation rate was the highest it has been in the 11 years the school has tracked it. Seventy-seven percent of eighth-graders from Scott County Catholic schools chose to attend Assumption this year, he said.
“As society continues to challenge the values that our Catholic faith teaches, parents are more drawn toward the faith-based education and Christ-centered environment that Assumption provides. We have a caring faculty and staff that take very seriously the opportunity to educate the whole person.”
Various forms of financial aid help the school in a large way; the 1:1 initiative that places a computer in the hands of all students has been helpful, too, Craig added. All students can participate in a variety of extracurricular opportunities, which is another plus.
Ron Glasgow, principal at Notre Dame Middle School/High School in Burlington, said enrollment grew by 21 students this year to 216 students. Notre Dame has experienced steady growth for the past five years. “This year we were especially happy with our 21-student increase. That is significant considering that we are a small 1-A school. Also, most of southeast Iowa is losing students.”
He attributes the growth to an exceptional faculty and staff and to the offering of more advanced placement (AP) and college courses.
“We have a strong activities program plus we are holding fairly steady in the mid-80 percent enrollment with Catholic parish students,” Glasgow said. “Our priest support is terrific. Father Marty Goetz (pastor of Ss. John & Paul Parish, Burlington) and Father David Steinle (pastor of Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish, West Burlington) are both Catholic high school graduates. They know and currently see the value of faith-based education.”
Seton Catholic School in Ottumwa saw an increase of 22 students in its preschool program. The increase was due to an agreement with First United Methodist Church across the street from the Catholic school. Earlier this year Principal Julie Gentz said the arrangement allowed for the space-crunched Catholic school to open an additional preschool class at the church.
While overall enrollment was down at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Davenport by 18 students, Principal Chad Steimle is encouraged by the potential for new students. “We have two or three prospective families with four to six students considering JFK for a semester enrollment with us.”
He attributed this year’s enrollment decline to a low birth rate that impacted preschool and kindergarten numbers, and a higher percentage of kindergarten-eligible students whose parents chose to have them take an additional year of preschool. Since the start of the school year, one student has moved out of state.
Principal Julie Delaney at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport echoed Steimle’s explanation for lower preschool and kindergarten numbers. Enrollment dropped by 14 students.
“Our kindergarten is down 12 from last year’s class. It was a low birth year and all kindergartens — except All Saints — are down, including public schools,” Delaney said. The 4-year-old preschool is holding steady, but numbers in the 3-year-old program and prekindergarten are down.
Waiting lists exist for second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades. As a result, one family chose to enroll three children in another school.
“If someone would like to attend St. Paul’s, it works best to start with us in kindergarten, because once the classes get beyond third grade we have waiting lists,” Delaney said.
Jeanne VonFeldt, principal at All Saints Catholic School in Davenport, said she is unsure why it is the only Davenport school to see an increase in kindergarten.
“All I can say is we embrace our diversity, have community bonding and our parents are our best ambassadors.”