But Sister MacDonald warned that this model of saving a few schools at the last minute will likely not remain sustainable year-after-year.
"We are optimistic that things will pick up," she said, noting that about 2,000 Catholic schools across the country have not experienced massive enrollment declines, but instead have waiting lists.
"People do want Catholic education, and our challenge at NCEA and in working with various dioceses is how to make these schools affordable and accessible for families, especially families of modest means."
Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles oversees the largest Catholic school system in the U.S., and wrote in a June 16 column that the nation's Catholic schools play a vital role in helping minority and low-income families.
Nationwide, about 20% of students who attend Catholic schools in the U.S. are members of racial minorities, according to 2016 NCEA data.
In Los Angeles, that figure is significantly higher. Gomez says about 80% of Catholic school students in LA come from minority families.
For elementary school students, the average yearly cost of attendance is about $5,936, while for high school students it is $15,249, NCEA says.
Los Angeles' Catholic Education Foundation has granted more than $200 million in scholarships to 181,000 low-income students over the past 25 years, Gomez said.
In addition, he said, the LA Catholic school system has provided nearly half a million free meals to low-income students since the start of the pandemic.
The archbishop decried the fact that 37 states still have laws on the books, known as "Blaine Amendments," which prohibit government funding to "sectarian" schools- a 19th-century euphemism for Catholic schools, according to opponents of the laws.
A constitutional amendment to ban government funding for Catholic schools, proposed in the late 19th century by Maine lawmaker James Blaine, failed at the federal level, but many states inserted similar language in their constitutions.
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Parents paying to send their children to Catholic schools end up also paying for public schools with their tax dollars, Gomez said, without any of that government aid going to their children's education.
The Supreme Court is expected to soon issue a ruling on a consequential Blaine Amendment case, and though some parishes have received emergency payroll loans through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Gomez says Congress and the White House "cannot afford to wait" to provide aid to Catholic schools.
"If Catholic schools are allowed to fail in large numbers, it would cost public schools about $20 billion to absorb their students, a cost already-burdened public schools should not be made to bear," Gomez asserted.
Catholic school students are, almost across the board, more academically successful than their public school peers. According to 2016 figures, 99% of Catholic school students graduate from high school on time, and 86% of Catholic school graduates attend college.
About 17% of students at Catholic schools are not Catholic, making their attendance an opportunity for evangelization both for them and for their parents.
MacDonald says she hears from parents who are not Catholic who nevertheless want for their children the kind of environment that a Catholic school provides.