Overall school enrollment in diocese slips to 12,092
Enrollment in the 46 schools of the Diocese of Peoria has dropped, but there is still good news to be found in the figures released this month by the Office of Catholic Schools.
“With our decline this year, the surprise is that it wasn’t larger,” said Brother William Dygert, CSC, superintendent of diocesan schools. “Because of the economy and the slow return of the job market, we really expected it to be more severe.”
The official enrollment for the 2010-11 school year is 12,092, a drop of 232 students or 1.9 percent of the total. That includes students in 39 elementary schools, six high schools and Marquette Academy, which enrolls students in pre-kindergarten through high school.
Of the total, there are 9,452 students on the elementary school level with 1,299 of them enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs. The secondary schools have 2,640 students this year.
Brother William said there are always a variety of factors for why enrollment dips. Playing a role this year was the closing of St. Mary’s School in Westville.
“We didn’t retain all of the students from St. Mary’s -- some of them went to St. Paul’s and to Holy Family in Danville,” he said.
In addition, there was some loss when St. Columba’s School, St. Patrick’s School and Marquette High School were reconfigured into Marquette Academy, a single school on three campuses. More of that was seen at the elementary school than the high school, Brother William told The Catholic Post.
While 21 schools did experience a decrease in enrollment, two schools saw no change and 16 schools reported an increase, he added.
“The increase against the decrease is about 60-40. The increases were generally slight and the decreases were also generally slight, with three or four exceptions,” Brother William explained. “You’re talking about three, four, five kids in the elementary schools.”
He noted that last year’s decrease in the high schools was “almost minimal.”
“The difference was 17 and this year it’s 77. That’s not bad,” he said.
National figures are not available yet from the National Catholic Educational Association and probably won’t be until January, but last year the Diocese of Peoria was below the national average of about 5 percent decline in school enrollment, according to Brother William.
Even though finances are not the sole factor in why students may not be attending a Catholic school, they do enter the picture, he said. One of the priorities of the Office of Catholic Schools this year is to “have the conversation” about what the funding model should be for Catholic schools in the future.