.- While Catholic elementary schools are struggling to remain open — two more have been slated for closure this June — Long Island's Catholic high schools are booming and fall enrollments continue to climb, reported Newsday. In September, there will be about 13,400 students in the 11 high schools within the Diocese of Rockville Centre, an increase of more than nine percent over last year and more then 12 percent in the last eight years.
Most of the Catholic high schools have waiting lists for September’s freshman class. Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale had a record 2,200 applications this fall and admitted 586 more students for its incoming freshman class than it had planned, reported the newspaper.
While the faith component and strong academics have always been the draw of Catholic schools, Newsday reported that the increased demand also comes from the perception that Catholic high schools, with their dress codes, discipline and emphasis on traditional values, offer a more structured environment, free from drugs and sexually suggestive clothing.
The diocese recently surveyed families with children in religious education programs and found that, due to cost, parents often chose public elementary school in order to save money and eventually pay the $6,000 annual tuition at a Catholic high school.
And this year’s numbers support this data. Forty percent of incoming ninth-graders in Catholic schools will come from public schools.
Parents who previously made the switch told Newsday that their kids are getting more individual attention than they did in public schools and are “blossoming” as a result.
Despite the enrollment increases in Catholic high schools, diocesan officials are worried about the long-term financial picture, reported Newsday. The diocese is providing $2.3 million in subsidies to its three high schools — a practice it does not expect it can keep up. It’s a predicament since increasing tuition would risk pricing out poor and working class families.