Enrollment dips at county's only Catholic high school HARFORD COUNTY

December 06, 1992|By Sherrie Ruhl | Sherrie Ruhl,Staff Writer

Tough economic times and increasing costs have put a damper on enrollment at John Carroll, Harford County's only Catholic high school. But classrooms are filled at the county's other two Catholic schools, which teach children through the eighth grade.

"Economic conditions have hurt us more than anything," said Jane DuBois, public relations coordinator for John Carroll.

"We also have tough competition in the public schools here. It's easier to attract students to Catholic schools in the city, for example, because many public schools are not as good" as they are in the counties, she said.

She said enrollment was down this year by about 2.7 percent, to 598 students. Last year, enrollment was 615 and in 1990 it was 635 students, she said. The school can hold 1,000 students.

Overall in the county, Catholic enrollment was up nearly 1 percent to 1,320 students, from 1,307 students last year. That compares with a 3 percent increase this year in total Catholic school enrollment in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. That's the largest number of students to attend the Catholic schools in the archdiocese since 1988, the archdiocese announced recently.

The 31,978 students attend 100 elementary, middle and secondary schools in Baltimore City and eight surrounding counties, including Harford. The other counties in the archdiocese, which also showed an increase in Catholic school enrollment, are: Allegany, 5.5 percent, Anne Arundel, 6.1 percent, Baltimore, 3.5 percent, Carroll, 17.3 percent, Frederick, 9.5 percent, Howard, 12.1 percent and Washington, 0.4 percent. Only Baltimore City showed a slight decline, of less than 1 percent.

Ms. DuBois, at John Carroll, said parents choose Catholic schools for their children for many reasons.

"Parents tell us they want their children to go to John Carroll primarily because of the school's strong academic program. Catholic values are a strong second," she said. Last year all of the school's 134 seniors were accepted into college, she said.

There are 167 seniors this year. The college acceptance rate for graduates of the 21 other Catholic high schools in the archdiocese is more than 90 percent, according to the Department of Catholic Education Ministries, Division of Catholic Schools.

Tuition at John Carroll is $4,600 a year, a $1,000 increase over the last four years, Ms. DuBois said. Books cost about $200 a year and uniforms, over the four years of the school, could be about $600 for girls. Boys' uniforms are typically cheaper, partly because parents can buy at least some of the uniform, like the dark pants, at department stores. Girls' uniforms typically have to be ordered.

The Rev. Francis X. Callahan, president of John Carroll, said the high school is considering launching a public relations campaign in an effort to attract more students.

"We have to recruit better, get out there and let people know how good we are," said Father Callahan.

In contrast, St. Margaret School in Bel Air is bursting at the seams, he said. Father Callahan is pastor of St. Margaret Church in Bel Air and chief executive officer of the school.

The school, which teaches pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, has a waiting list for its prekindergarten program and first and second grades, he said.

The school has 525 students this year, a 2.5 percent increase over the 512 students the school had last year. At St. Joan of Arc School in Aberdeen, which teaches students in kindergarten through eighth grade, there are 197 students this year. That's a 12 percent jump over last year's 175 students. The school has a capacity of about 240 students.

Sister Anne Therese, principal at St. Joan of Arc, credited the growth to a marketing and advertising campaign.

The school is planning an addition that will include a larger library and computer and art-music rooms, she said.

Sister Therese said she did not know how big the addition would be or how much it would cost. "We are accepting bids now," she said.

St. Margaret is also considering remodeling or adding on additional space.

The school has moved some administrative offices and other support personnel into temporary trailers to create more room for students.

"Right now, we've got an architect looking at our buildings and trying to decide what would make the most efficient use of our space. We are in the planning stages of considering whether to )) expand the school or remodel it," Father Callahan said.

St. Margaret, the county's largest Catholic parish, provides another 1,600 children attending public schools with evening and weekend religious education. That's so these children can receive sacraments, including first communion and confirmation, in the Catholic church, Father Callahan said.

Only about 8 percent of the students at St. Margaret are not Catholic, he said.

At John Carroll, about 25 percent of the students are not Catholic, the school said.

Tuition at St. Margaret is about $1,865. Books cost about $90 and uniforms can cost about $75 annually, said Amelia Mike, principal at St. Margaret.

At St. Joan of Arc school in Aberdeen, tuition is about $1,500 plus $25 for books, said Sister Therese.

Tuition in the archdiocese averages $1,600 to $1,700 at the elementary school level and about $3,200 in secondary schools.

Schools operate independently and can set their own tuition and fees, said Chris Rusk, public relations director of the archdiocese's education department.

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