FALL RIVER — 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. Discover Catholic Schools Week (November 14-20) provided a platform for Catholic schools to communicate their uniqueness and encourage new families to discover what Catholic schools have to offer their children and families.
For many students attending one of the 15 Catholic elementary schools, this year may be their first exposure to the unique qualities of a Catholic education that cannot be found in any secular educational experience. Enrollment in the Diocese of Fall River Catholic elementary schools has increased by three percent as compared to the 2020-21 school year; and most Catholic elementary schools have a wait-list for certain grades.
Discover Catholic Schools Week focused 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 presented a different theme in order to highlight the many facets that are touched by a Catholic education. The 2021 themes for the week were:
— Discover with your parish;
— Discover Catholic school students;
— Discover Catholic school parents;
— Discover Catholic school educators;
— Discover and Celebrate Faith-Based Communities;
— Discover Catholic school donors
— Discover Catholic school alumni.
“Discover Catholic Schools 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,” said 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 are. 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 ‘Discover Catholic Schools Week’ was 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,” said Christina Duggan, director of Operations and Special Programs 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. Currently, 1,000 students have received a needs-based award, which in many cases has reduced tuition by 30-50 percent; 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 to a more personalized education focusing on each student’s specific needs. More than 90 percent of the Diocese of Fall River Catholic schools provide some sort of accommodations for students who learn differently.
While Catholic schools have weathered many challenges over the past few decades, there is no doubt that Catholic schools are still a valued piece of this country’s educational landscape. Whether a family’s interest in Catholic education is due to the rigorous academics, or for the formation of the whole child, Catholic schools continue to provide children and families a faith-filled community where the values and teachings of Jesus Christ are integrated into every aspect of a child’s development.
The Catholic Schools Alliance comprises administrators, teachers, staff, parents and clergy joined in partnership to educate the children of the Diocese of Fall River in Catholic faith and values. Our schools have a demanding educational culture that helps students from across the academic spectrum reach their God-given potential. With an emphasis on service and respect for the dignity of every person, we prepare students to meet the challenges of today’s diverse world and become meaningful contributors to society.
For more information about the Catholic Schools Alliance, go to https://www.catholicschoolsalliance.org/we-have-a-place-for-you/.