After ten consecutive years of declining enrollment in elementary schools of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, this year’s census shows an overall increase of 100 students.The turnaround, say archdiocesan officials, testifies to a momentum sparked by a combination of factors, including grass roots marketing efforts, a move to extend the school year implemented at several of the schools showing enrollment boosts, and sustained local effort by principals and school communities.At the Oct. 12 principals’ meeting, Kevin Baxter, archdiocesan superintendent of elementary schools said the decline “freeze” and slight enrollment uptick by 100 students signals an important milestone.“Over the last decade, there was an average decrease of 1,700 students each year,” said Baxter, noting that enrollment has risen from 51,477 students last year to 51,577.“We have essentially held even” at around 51,500 students, Baxter pointed out. “What that says when we’ve seen a decrease over the decade is that we are starting to move in the right direction. The key for all of us now is to continue to build momentum.”He attributes the increase to “a number of different things,” including the Department of Catholic Schools’ Marketing Archdiocesan eXcellence in Los Angeles (MAX LA) campaign. There are also other marketing initiatives with the University of Notre Dame and Catholic School Management that have positively impacted the enrollment at some schools.“There’s been a lot of work with regard to focusing schools on telling their story, on communicating that, marketing it at a local level and really making sure that people know the value of the school,” explained Baxter.“We’ve been stressing the fact for two years now the idea that enrollment is a barometer of our success --- it’s not the aim. We want to make sure we’re creating a faith-centered product [of] quality education, and, if we do that effectively, then students should come.”Archbishop José Gomez’ strong support of Catholic schools --- he opened the principals’ meeting with a talk on the ministry of Catholic educators --- has helped spread the word about the value of a Catholic education.“I think Archbishop Gomez has had an impact,” said Baxter, “because he’s been a very vocal proponent of Catholic education and talked about it a lot, specifically with regard to Latino families. He has also stressed the importance of raising funds in order to support those families that wish to attend a Catholic school but are unable to because of financial limitations.”Regarding the adoption of an increase of 5 to 20 days in the school year by 65 percent of archdiocesan elementary schools --- including 76 schools which have implemented a 200-day academic calendar --- Baxter says the move to an extended year may also have played a part in the enrollment upswing.“I think the 200 days in some locations has definitely impacted enrollment positively,” said Baxter. “We’re still doing some analysis on the census, but there’s some schools clearly up very, very big with the move to 200 days, and I would have expected that had some role to play in it as well.”

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