By Anne Marie Amacher
With a new school year underway, enrollment figures appear to be steady or even rising in many Catholic schools in the Diocese of Davenport.
Principals, presidents and other school representatives told The Catholic Messenger that the School Tuition Organization (STO) has played a large part in retaining students during the struggling economy. The Mississippi Valley STO serves students in Scott County and the STO of Southeast Iowa serves schools in the rest of the diocese. Financial contributors receive state tax breaks for donations to STOs.
Schools and the parishes that serve them offer additional financial aid options such as scholarships and even emergency assistance funds for students. Scott County schools also offer assistance through the Embracing Our Future program and Father Ken Martin Scholarships. Money for the Father Ken Martin scholarships comes from the proceeds of an annual golf outing.
Although these financial assistance sources don’t cover all needs, families are still finding ways for their children to attend Catholic schools.
Schools also rely on financial assistance, through grants, to help pay for such projects as window replacement, restroom renovations, new playground equipment and computers. But competition for grants is growing, school leaders say, which is affecting the funding amounts they receive.
Karen Witt, director of development at Prince of Peace schools in Clinton, said projects are always in the pipeline and get completed as funding becomes available.
Carol Trueg, president of Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City said, “I am making it a priority of my office to apply for grants that become available.” The cost of many projects is offset with grant money. “We’re always watching the bottom dollar.”
In Davenport, Assumption High School President Andy Craig said Assumption budgets conservatively and is in a position to complete projects even if grant money is short of expectations.
Chad Steimle, principal at John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Davenport, said the school hasn’t increased the number of grant applications it submits, but competition is squeezing the available grant dollars. JFK has had several projects paid for with grant assistance, donations and donated labor.
St. James School Principal Brad Thiel in Washington said the school has delayed upgrades for the playground, kitchen and fire alarm system while waiting to hear about grants. “Some of our updates will have to be done soon regardless of grants or the economy.”
Here are highlights of projects and programs that schools provided to The Catholic Messenger for the new academic year:
The cafeteria and classroom area at Lourdes Catholic School have been waterproofed with an $18,500 grant from Scott County Regional Authority. A grant from the Riverboat Development Authority was used for building security. A new pre-K class has been added because the school participates in the 4-year-old voluntary preschool program.
Enrollment is at 380 students, which is up from 362 last year.
An instructor from Egypt will teach Arabic to students in grades K-12 at Notre Dame schools. Grants from the Teaching Critical Languages Program through the American Council of International Languages helped the school hire the instructor. Arabic I and Chinese II also were added at the high school level. Everyday Math will be used at Notre Dame Elementary. Sixth-grade moved to the middle school. A retirement plan has been added for the staff at Notre Dame.
Over the summer new boilers were installed at the high school.
Enrollment for the junior/senior high is 143 students. Enrollment in K-5 is 179. Total enrollment last school year was 310 students.
Prince of Peace Catholic Academy and College Preparatory received a $38,000 empowerment grant to purchase a new preschool playground. A collaborative effort with the Clinton public school system involves sharing special education teachers to create a total integration of special education preschoolers. A new gym/cafeteria floor, preschool playground and remodeling of restrooms were done over the summer.
Enrollment is 247 students this year, down nine students from last year’s total of 256.
• A $15,000 grant from Scott County Regional Authority will allow All Saints Catholic School to purchase 10 new laptop computers and three multi-media projectors and accessories. To ease the transition to middle school, All Saints is offering a sixth-grade study skills class to its students throughout first semester. The playground area is fenced in and air conditioning has been added to preschool rooms.
Enrollment is about 360 students, down about 10 students from last school year’s total of 370. Despite the decline, some class levels still have a waiting list.
• Assumption High School was able to purchase Adobe Creative Suite computer software and two new exterior doors, thanks to grants from the Scott County Regional Authority. A college statistics class has been added this year. The small gym and school kitchen were remodeled; grading and various concrete work was completed.
Enrollment is 409, down three students from last year’s total of 412.
• John F. Kennedy Catholic School has purchased 30 Netbooks for students and additional ones for staff. The school has purchased additional LCD projectors, made enhancements to the wireless network and is piloting instrumental lessons with the Internet at home. Musical keyboards also were purchased to enhance music education. Childcare services were expanded this year at JFK to offer 3-year-old through fifth-grade childcare on non-school days.
Enrollment has been on the rise for the fifth year in a row. About 350 students were enrolled in K-8 and 95 in preschool. Last year’s total was 416.
Our Lady of Victory Parish’s capital campaign continues and will benefit the school as well. Additional classrooms and renovations at the school are included in the capital campaign, which also includes a gathering space for the church.
• St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School received grants from IBM for computers, Scott County Regional Authority for roof repairs and Community Foundation of the Great River Bend for drinking fountains. The theme for this school year is “Christian Character for Life.” A guidance counselor will work with students this year.
Enrollment is the same as last year for K-8: 449 students. Preschool enrollment is 84, compared to 90 last year.
An empowerment grant is helping to pay for a preschool aide at St. Joseph Catholic School. The school joined the voluntary 4-year-old preschool program, which is paid for by the state. New wiring was installed in the school so more computers could be added to the classrooms. More remedial and enrichment activities will be offered and VAST kits will give students in K-5 hands-on science.
Enrollment is 212, up three students from last year’s total of 209.
Fort Madison/St. Paul/West Point
Holy Trinity Catholic Schools took advantage of several grant opportunities: $2,500 from Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, which helped purchase technology equipment and science materials; Children First Empowerment Grant, which provided $14,000 for 2009 playground equipment and salaries for the St. Paul Early Childhood Center; $6,000 for 2010 grant funding for salaries at the St. Paul center; a University of Missouri supplemental grant for science lab kits at the Fort Madison Early Childhood Center; supply funding from Iowa School Age Care Alliance for the Before and After School Day Care at the Fort Madison early learning center and several mini-grants for additional classroom material.
Three Promethean Interactive Whiteboards at the junior/senior high level and two at the elementary were added. The computer lab at the junior/senior high has been updated with 25 new computers.
A 7-12 Progressive Writing Portfolio program is being introduced to increase writing time and develop and hone skills. All English students in grades 9-12 are assigned additional reading of novels each quarter, to increase students’ exposure to the classics.
The Bio-Tech Thread with Southeastern Community College remains.
Additional projects include a new LED sign in front of the junior/senior high building, and the junior/senior high gym has received a facelift, including new bleachers. A new fire alarm system was installed in that building. The elementary building in West Point had several improvements including newly remodeled girls and boys restrooms at the primary level. The intermediate level saw an enlarged classroom at the fifth-grade level as well as updates to the restrooms. The athletic board members also painted the gym in West Point and locker room updates are being made. The early learning center in Fort Madison has more preschool seats and the before and after children care program is full.
Estimated enrollment is 353 (K-12), down from 364 last year.
Regina Elementary added a workshop called EduSafe, which provides teachers with tools for safe classrooms. A nature explorer classroom for the preschool and daycare is new this year. There are 77 students enrolled in the preschool and daycare and 439 students in grades K-6. Enrollment is down from 466 last year.
Regina Junior/Senior High is in the process of augmenting its current course catalog with a wide variety of online offerings in all of the core areas from basic to AP (Advanced Placement). Enrollment is 412 students, which is down from 423 last year. Almost daily, though, the school receives inquiries from interested families and is confident this is a “temporary dip” in enrollment.
Six additional classrooms, office space, multi-purpose room and youth ministry room are under construction at Bishop Hayes Catholic School, which will be shared by Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish.
New this year is professional staff development through the local Area Education Agency. The Department of Education accreditation visit will occur this year.
An enrichment program also is being implemented. It will include K-5 Spanish, K-2 enrichment classes, 3-5 enrichment projects and library skills. Bishop Hayes will take part in the statewide 4-year-old preschool grant this year.
Enrollment is 195 students, up from 178 last year.
New floors were laid in the cafeteria and preschool at Seton Catholic School. Seton partnered with the Ottumwa public school system to offer the pre-K voluntary 4-year-old preschool. There are 125 students this year, which includes eight new students to the system. That’s up from 114 last year.
An addition to St. James Catholic School that joins the school and parish is now complete. The addition includes administrative offices, a classroom, gathering space and meeting room. Since it is the Year for Priests, St. James School chose the phrase “Be Imitators of Christ” as its theme for the school year.
Enrollment is at 95, down 13 students from last year’s total of 108 students.