Archdiocesan school rolls climb by 3.2% Enrollment is up for 3rd straight year

November 03, 1993|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,Staff Writer

Catholic school enrollment grew by more than 1,000 students in the Archdiocese of Baltimore this fall, an increase of 3.2 percent from last year and a continuation of the growth of the previous two years, officials said yesterday.

There are 32,991 students in the archdiocesan elementary, middle and high schools in Baltimore metropolitan area and Western Maryland. Last year, these schools had 31,978 students.

"It's a time for celebration," said Ronald Valenti, archdiocesan schools superintendent, who announced the figures at a news conference yesterday at St. Mary's Parish in Govans.

Enrollment was up nearly 8 percent in the archdiocese's nine middle schools, almost 4 percent in 69 elementary schools and less than 1 percent in 22 high schools. The archdiocese also operates one special education school. The biggest gains were in outlying areas.

The middle school growth, in particular, reflects the aggressive marketing that Catholic schools have been doing, Dr. Valenti said. Also, two new middle schools for high-risk students opened in the city this fall: St. Ignatius Loyola on Calvert Street and Mother Seton Academy on Regester Street. Each school has about 20 sixth-graders, school officials said.

Dr. Valenti also handed out the Catholic schools' first report card, which gave them high marks for student and faculty attendance, the high school graduation rate, community service, parental involvement and in several academic areas.

The report card, based on school data, is similar to the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program, which measures the achievements of public schools.

"It's an assessment of who we are, what we are and what we're doing," said Dr. Valenti. "We always felt we had this commitment to excellence. This assessment confirmed what we thought."

Ninety-nine percent of Catholic high school students graduate, and 91 percent of those graduates go to college, he said. All high schools and 75 percent of the elementary and middle

schools have community service programs and 72 percent of parents volunteer in the schools, he said.

He cited "an area of challenge" in the number of elementary and middle school students completing foreign language classes. Only about 45 percent of those students do so now, according to the report card.

Enrollment grew at the greatest rates in Allegany (14.5 percent), Frederick (12.3 percent), Washington (6.3 percent) and Anne Arundel (6 percent) counties. It rose 4.3 percent in Howard County, 2.1 percent in Baltimore County and 2 percent in Baltimore. The city figures reverse last year's slight decline in enrollment.

Enrollment was down 4 percent in Carroll County, which has one school, and less than 1 percent in Harford County. In Harford County, enrollment actually increased in the Catholic elementary schools, Dr. Valenti said, but it decreased in the one high school.

Suburban public school enrollments have generally been increasing, too. In Baltimore County, for example, enrollment grew by 3.7 percent this fall. City public school enrollment has been flat for several years.

More than 23 percent of the students in Catholic schools are non-Catholics. Nearly 81 percent of the students are white, 14.6 percent black and 4.5 percent are other minorities, the figures showed.

After reaching a plateau in the 1970s, Catholic school enrollment fell steadily to a low of 30,671 students in the fall of 1990.

In 1989, the archdiocese began an extensive marketing campaign to attract new students, featuring heavy broadcast advertising. It has been spending about $270,000 annually, said a school department spokeswoman.

The Knott Foundation gave the archdiocese $150,000 a year for the last four years to promote its schools. The rest of the money came from the schools and from the annual Lenten appeal.

This year, the foundation will give the schools $100,000 if they also raise another $100,000 by December. The annual marketing program begins in January.

PARTNERSHIP ANNOUNCED

The Catholic schools are looking to area businesses for guidance, insight and financial support.

Archbishop William H. Keeler announced yesterday the formation of a business partnership -- Business and Education Serving Together (BEST) -- between archdiocesan schools and local business leaders. The group will help the schools determine the skills needed in the work force, share management practices and lend financial support, "especially to those schools that are hanging on by their fingertips."

Norman P. Blake Jr., chief executive officer of USF&G, will be chairman of the BEST task force, which will meet soon to set goals and outline programs. The archbishop said the partnership will help mainly city schools, but will also serve as a model for groups in other areas of the archdiocese.

"This is an exciting day for me and everyone involved in the archdiocese's Catholic schools," said Archbishop Keeler. "Today is a day of celebration for Catholic education."

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