Students compete for high school seat Test: Youths throughout area take Archdiocese of Baltimore's high school entrance exam.

January 07, 1996|By Mary Maushard | Mary Maushard,SUN STAFF

Even for a library, the room at Mount de Sales Academy was quiet yesterday morning, as dozens of girls waited anxiously to take the Archdiocese of Baltimore's high school entrance test.

Mary Rose Vanschoor was one of only a few, however, who raised her hand when the girls were asked if they were nervous.

"Oh yeah," said the 12-year-old from Howard County as she fidgeted with a handful of freshly sharpened pencils.

"It's just another test," said Kristin Poulson of Baltimore.

The girls' furtive glances and uncharacteristic silence belied their nerves. After all, the three-hour standardized test would partially determine if they get into their first, or even second, choice of high schools.

The girls at the Catonsville academy were among more than 3,000 youngsters who took the archdiocese's high school entrance exam at 20 schools yesterday. These students, from public, private and home schools, are competing for 2,750 seats in the archdiocese's ninth grade next year -- some of which are already filled.

Because students could take the test without pre-registering, the archdioce san schools' office did not know how many students tested this weekend, but 3,078 eighth-graders took the exam last year, said Michelle Holten, assistant to the director of marketing and public relations for the schools.

Catholic school enrollments have increased about 3 percent a year since 1990. The archdiocese has about 34,600 students, with a waiting list of 2,500. About 10,000 of the archdiocese's students are in high school.

And for the first time since baby boomers jammed Catholic schools in the 1950s and 1960s, the archdiocese is considering building new schools to meet the growth it anticipates will continue for 20 more years.

"I really want to go to Catholic school," said Katrina Zelenka, an eighth-grader at Franklin Middle School in Reisterstown. Along with Mount de Sales, she's considering Mercy in Baltimore and Maryvale in Brooklandville -- two other all-girls schools.

The archdiocese asks students to take the test at their first-choice school, and can request that their scores be sent to up to three schools.

"We all give the same test, but we all have our own application," said Anna Reahl, director of admissions at Mount de Sales, which will accept 100 students for next year's freshman class. "It's just like selecting a college," she said.

At Loyola Blakefield on North Charles Street in Baltimore County, there were four times as many applicants as seats in this year's freshman class. Although the class has 190 students, only 100 came from outside the school; the others came from Loyola's middle school and those students do not have to take the exam, said Loyola spokesman, William MacSherry.

At Towson Catholic High School, Tammy Lunn was anxious as she waited for her son, David, to finish his exam. "It's just the waiting for results and acceptances that's hard," she said.

David Lunn, a student at Mount Royal Elementary in Bolton Hill, chose Towson Catholic because of its small classes, academic record and basketball program, she said. Arriving unscathed but a little bleary-eyed, David said the test "was hard -- all of it. But I did good on it."

The exam was delayed because of inclement weather on the original December test date, but scores will be back in two weeks, said Ms. Reahl. Then, schools will interview prospective students and choose by March 1.

For Katie Blair, Ann Tabor and Katie Goins, schoolmates at St. Jane Frances School in Riviera Beach, Mount de Sales is their No. 1 pick, despite the commute.

"I like this school," said Katie Blair. "When I came to check it out, it made me feel like home."

Unlike this trio, who have always attended Catholic schools, many of those taking the test were not Catholic or private school students. Krissy and Cece Disharoon have been home-schooled for the last several years, with the twins' parents using Baltimore's Calvert School program.

"Our parents don't want to teach us everything you need in high school," said Cece. "Mount de Sales is "my 50 percent pick. I half want to go here and half want to go to the Baltimore School for the Arts," she said. Her sister agreed.

Do they want to go to the same school?

"We want to go to different schools," said Cece. "But our choices are the same."

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