FALL RIVER, MA – The topic of education continues to be highlighted in the media as the Covid-19 pandemic has influenced and changed every aspect of life. Despite all schools offering in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year, many families continue to choose to send their children to a Catholic school for many reasons. Celebrate Catholic Schools Week provides a platform for Catholic schools to communicate their uniqueness and encourage new families to discover the “Catholic school difference” firsthand.
For many students attending one of the 15 Catholic elementary schools or four Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Fall River, this year may be their first exposure to the unique qualities of Catholic education that cannot be found in any secular educational experience. According to the Diocese, enrollment in the Diocese of Fall River Catholic elementary schools has increased nearly 3% compared to last school year; and most Catholic elementary schools have a wait list.
The Diocese says that Celebrate Catholic Schools Week focuses on the many aspects of Catholic education valued by families for decades: a robust and balanced academic curriculum that integrates faith, culture and life; the value of serving others; as well as preparing students to be productive citizens and future leaders. Each day presents a different theme in order to highlight the many facets that are touched by a Catholic education. The 2022 themes for the week are:
· Celebrating your parish
· Celebrating your community
· Celebrating Catholic school students
· Celebrating your nation
· Celebrating vocations
· Celebrating faculty, staff and volunteers
· Celebrating families
“Celebrate Catholic School Week is a wonderful opportunity for all families to learn more about Catholic education and why it has been a valued educational asset for decades,” indicates Daniel S. Roy, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Fall River. “We cannot express enough how committed and faith-filled our team of Catholic school leaders, educators and staff have been throughout these challenging years. The pandemic has interrupted many aspects of education, but our schools always rise to the occasion of ensuring that students remain the focus of our efforts.”
According to Kellie Kickham, principal of St. John the Evangelist School in Attleboro, “The theme of ‘Celebrate Catholic Schools Week’ is perfect for this moment in time. We continue to have an increase in inquiries and enrollment from many families whose priority is to provide an education with academic rigor along with faith formation, morality, and a sense of true community. For the families who have enrolled, they are amazed with the overall Catholic school experience and express that they never realized that there was such a difference in values students receive from a Catholic education.”
Affordability is the main worry for many new families as they engage in learning more about the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Fall River. “The cost of tuition is of great concern to many families,” says Christina Duggan, Vice President of Operations for the Catholic Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts. “Each of our elementary schools encourages families to apply to the Foundation to Advance Catholic Education (FACE) which helps reduce the cost of tuition by providing scholarships. For this school year, about 900 students have received a needs-based award, which in many cases has reduced tuition by 30-50%; and for many schools, this can result in a monthly tuition payment of $300 or less. Awards are determined by a family’s financial circumstances at the time of application. FACE scholarships help reduce the tuition cost and make a Catholic school education more attainable, and, in the end, families realize that a Catholic education is well worth the investment. Families are encouraged to apply early for the best chance of receiving an award as funds are limited.”
Other concerns that have been expressed by interested families are special education services for their child. The Diocese of Fall River has made great improvements in special education by partnering with the S.E.A.L. Foundation, who oversees the special education professionals in each partnering school. In addition to the very high-quality special education services, the smaller class sizes of Catholic schools lend itself to a more personalized education focusing on each student’s specific needs. Over 90% of the Diocese of Fall River Catholic schools provide some sort of accommodations for students who learn differently.
While Catholic schools across the country have weathered many challenges over the past few decades, with the increase in enrollment, there is no doubt that Catholic schools are still valued in today’s educational landscape.