Catholic school draws across border

March 07, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

They cross the Maryland-Pennsylvania line to go to high school every day, after waking up an hour earlier than they would if they went to the schools in their hometowns.

From Carroll County, 36 teen-agers commute to Delone Catholic High School in McSherrystown, Pa. More will attend next year, according to early registration figures, said Peter L. Gibaud, the school's development director.

"Of the various parts of our service area, Carroll County is the growth area right now," Mr. Gibaud said. Carroll County has no Catholic high school now, so county students look to Pennsylvania, Frederick or Baltimore for a Catholic education beyond the eighth grade.

Delone has just under 500 students. This school year, 14 freshmen are from Carroll County. For September, 23 Carroll County eighth-graders have signed up, and registration is open until at least the end of March, Mr. Gibaud said.

Like other Catholic schools, Delone markets itself in newspaper ads, and in Carroll County parishes and parochial elementary schools.

"We've made a special effort to talk to students and parents in the three Catholic schools that have Carroll students," Mr. Gibaud said. Those schools are Mother Seton in Emmitsburg, St. John in Westminster and Sacred Heart in Glyndon, in northwestern Baltimore County. All three schools have classes through eighth grade.

Zack Cooke, 15, of Uniontown went to Mother Seton and chose to continue his Catholic education at Delone.

"Francis Scott Key High School is not even a mile from my house," said Zack, a sophomore.

He rides five miles with his mother or father every morning to Taneytown to catch a bus from St. Joseph Catholic Church to Delone, another 20 miles away.

"I'm used to it now," he said of the commute, which requires him to awaken at 6 a.m.

His father, Wayne Cooke, a Finksburg businessman, said the education his three children have received at Delone is worth the inconvenience and the expense.

"We just feel like it's a better environment for the children all around," Mr. Cooke said. "There was just an awakening that it was time to do something, that they weren't getting the kind of education we wanted [in public schools]."

Drive for new school

In South Carroll, a group of parents is initiating a drive -- with support from the Archdiocese of Baltimore -- to study the demand for a Catholic high school in Eldersburg or northern Howard County.

It would be the first new high school in the archdiocese since the 1960s, when Catholic school enrollment peaked.

Mr. Gibaud said he is not concerned that a new high school in South Carroll would hurt Delone.

"I would hope that by the time that happens, our reputation in Carroll County would be secure," he said.

And, he said, the number of Pennsylvania students who will enroll at Delone is expected to grow.

Delone has softened the inconvenience of the commute from Carroll by providing bus service. The high school operates a bus that picks up students at St. John Elementary School in Westminster. St. Joseph sponsors a bus from its parish to Delone, and a private company runs a pair of vans through the Hampstead-Manchester corridor.

"This is the way we can be accessible to even South Carroll families," Mr. Gibaud said. South Carroll families drive their students to Westminster to catch the bus at St. John by 7:10 a.m. each day.

The cost for transportation is $36 to $60 a month, in addition to the school tuition, which ranges from $1,575 to $2,350.

The lower rate goes to families who belong to parishes that support the school.

Unlike some Catholic schools, Delone receives a subsidy of $500,000 a year from nine Pennsylvania parishes, Mr. Gibaud said. The subsidy allows Delone to charge about half the tuition of some Baltimore Catholic high schools, he said.

Sophomores Christy Hughes of Westminster and Michele Heine of Taneytown considered Baltimore Catholic high schools. Michele's mother, Linda, attended Mercy High.

Michele said she would have commuted with her father, Henry Heine, a Taneytown councilman who works in Baltimore. But the distance would have meant she could participate in fewer extracurricular activities.

Michele and Christy said they feel they are missing a few things -- a wider variety of sports and foreign language classes or technical and vocational education -- by not attending a public school.

Delone no longer offers Latin.

But they don't mind, the two girls said.

Smaller is better

"For science and math, I think this is better, because it's smaller," Michele said.

"You have the help you need," Christy said.

The Cooke children started in public schools, but decided a few years ago to choose a Catholic education. Mr. Cooke attended a Catholic grade school.

"There are more lay people than nuns teaching now, but I think they get the same kind of values," he said.

The Carroll students said they don't mind the dress code at the school, which allows no jeans or athletic shoes except on occasional "dress-down" days.

Boys wear shirts with collars and ties, or turtlenecks under sweaters.

Girls may wear anything from dresses to pants, but skirts and dresses must be no more than 4 inches above the knee.

Checking with ruler

Homeroom teachers don't hesitate to bring out the ruler to check, Michele and Christy said.

But the girls don't care for the rule about "skorts," or culottes. Although skirts may be up to 4 inches above the knee at Delone, skorts must fall below the knee.

Fashionable skorts aren't made that way, Michele said.

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