By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — After five years of slight increases, the Diocese of Davenport’s Catholic schools have experienced an overall enrollment decrease for the second year in a row. The total number of students in kindergarten through senior year in high school fell by 54 to 4,005 students for the 2019-20 school year. There are five secondary and 13 elementary schools in the diocese.
Lee Morrison, superintendent of Catholic schools, said family sizes are smaller and demographics change, “but we are doing what we can to bolster marketing and tuition assistance to retain those students that we do have.”
Principals assess the reasons students leave a Catholic school in the diocese. Did the family move out of the area? Did the student transfer to a public school or to another Catholic school? “It’s important to know why our numbers are down,” Morrison said.
“I am disappointed, but you need to look at the data to see if there is a trend.” One of those trends relates to the number of children entering kindergarten at public and private schools in a given year. The birthrate for an incoming class may have been higher or lower than the previous class.
Regina Elementary in Iowa City gained 11 students after a loss of students the previous school year. The school has been working on increasing its kindergarten program recently. Principal Celeste Vincent said Regina Elementary has 64 kindergarteners this academic year, compared with 49 for the 2018-19 academic year.
“We had outgoing students who left Regina, but we started the year with 28 new students in grades 1-6. We gained some students from Iowa City public schools, but we had many families brand new to Iowa City who want a Catholic education for their child.”
Vincent noted that all Catholic schools work on maintaining and increasing enrollment. “At Regina, everyone realizes that they are part of recruitment and retention. We have a person dedicated to working on admissions. We have a person who shares daily great events through social media and constant contacts. We have an enrollment committee. We have parents who are willing to share their positive experience at Regina and invite others to our system. We have a school that we are all very proud of.”
Having a “one-stop drop (off)” for students from preschool through grade 12 is attractive to some. In addition to a quality education, families want a “truly embracing community that sees their child as an individual and wants the best for their child. Faith has never been more important.”
Enrollment fell by 24 students at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic School in Davenport. Principal Julie Delaney attributed the drop to a combination of factors. “We graduated 52 eighth-graders and brought in 37 kindergarten students for a loss of 15. We had 12 students move out of town. We lost seven to public schools. On the positive side, we had 17 new students transfer in this fall.”
Morrison said despite numbers being down, excitement for Catholic education continues. Initiatives such as new marketing strategies and increasing financial aid are being looked at.