Economy causes enrollment decline, staff cuts at some Catholic schools - Catholic Courier

Economy causes enrollment decline, staff cuts at some Catholic schools

The ongoing economic recession has caused enrollments to dip slightly at many Catholic elementary and high schools within the Diocese of Rochester, officials say.

Officials at Rochester’s Nazareth Schools believe economic woes are largely to blame for the lower enrollments at Nazareth Hall and Nazareth Academy for the 2009-10 school year, said Mary Stazie-Reinhardt, Nazareth’s director of enrollment management and public relations.

“I think the economic straits that the country is in, especially the Rochester community, has impacted everywhere across the board, in the private schools as much as the public schools,” she said.

Stazie-Reinhardt said some families recently have asked to revise their financial-aid applications because one or both parents have lost their jobs, while the local job market has forced other school families to move out of the area.

Nazareth Schools President Sister Patricia Carroll, SSJ, said she is anticipating the schools’ 2009-10 enrollment figures to be about 5 percent lower than those of the 2008-09 school year. This means officials had to make some tough decisions.

“Based on that 5-percent decrease, I have had to make some changes in our budget,” Sister Carroll said. “We made some changes in the staff that parallel enrollment.”

Irondequoit’s Bishop Kearney High School also had to adjust its staffing level to meet enrollment projections for the coming school year, said President Donna Dedee.

“At the end of the year we really took a hard look at what we could hope for in the fall, and adjusted accordingly. The (enrollment) numbers will be a tad down. That’s a reflection of the economy,” Dedee said.

Kearney officials estimated that 2009-10 enrollment figures would be slightly lower than those of the previous school year, necessitating an adjustment in staffing.

“At the end of the school year we announced that we were losing a combination of 10 employees across departments in direct relationship to what we expected our enrollment would be,” Dedee said.

So far the estimates made several months ago have been right on the mark, she added.

Enrollment at Geneva’s DeSales High School is holding relatively steady, said Scott Redding, outgoing interim principal. He expects there to be five fewer students in 2009-10 than in 2008-09, yet the troubled economy still forced him to lay off six teachers, he said.

“This was done to keep our tuition cost affordable for our families,” he explained.

Officials at the other four diocesan-affiliated high schools said they’re not planning any staff reductions. Enrollment is down approximately 10 percent at Elmira Notre Dame High School, said Mercy Sister Mary Walter Hickey, president. But the school recently received a monetary gift from Corning Inc. and is using that money to help families afford tuition, she said.

So far about 20 fewer students are enrolled at Rochester’s McQuaid Jesuit High School than enrolled last school year, said President Bill Hobbs. Based on a 2006 statistical analysis the Center for Governmental Research completed for McQuaid, Hobbs said the decreased enrollment is due to a combination of both local demographic trends and the current economic climate. The incoming seventh-grade class is smaller than last year’s, Hobbs said, but this coming year’s freshman class is actually larger than last year’s. These enrollment figures haven’t influenced staffing decisions, he added.

“We’re not decreasing the size of our staff,” Hobbs said.

Meanwhile, enrollment is up slightly at Our Lady of Mercy High School in Brighton and Rochester’s Aquinas Institute. Mercy currently has about 10 more students enrolled than it did at this time last summer, said Principal Terry Quinn.

“We’re holding steady with our staff. We’re in pretty good shape right now,” Quinn remarked.

And Aquinas so far has about 12 more students enrolled than it did last year, and the 2009-10 freshman class is larger than the 2008-09 freshman class by three students, said Joseph B. Knapp, Aquinas’ director of admissions and public relations.

“Things are looking pretty good for us,” Knapp said.

Diocesan officials were optimistic as well. Approximately 3,400 students were enrolled in the diocesan-run Monroe County Catholic Schools, according to Doug Mandelaro, diocesan spokesman. That’s about 300 students fewer than last year’s enrollment, he said, but school officials expect late registrations throughout the month of August to close the gap.

At press time July 30 information was not available about enrollment at the diocesan schools outside Monroe County.

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