Enrollment at parish and archdiocesan elementary schools and preschools has increased during the current school year, especially among the majority of schools that added more days to their academic calendar last fall.A census analysis of spring enrollment figures recently submitted by archdiocesan elementary school principals shows that, since last September, there has been an increase of 215 students in grades K-8 as well as 77 new students enrolled in preschools based at elementary school sites. 

“Just over the course of this year, we’re up almost 300 students and that’s significant for us because we don’t usually see that kind of increase during the school year,” said Kevin Baxter, archdiocesan superintendent of 206 elementary schools.

According to a memo Baxter sent to school principals in late March, the census data reveals a greater enrollment increase at schools that extended their school year beyond the traditional 180-day calendar.

At the 78 K-8 schools that implemented a 200-day calendar for the 2011-12 school year, there was a combined total increase of 117 students. For the 54 schools that increased the academic calendar above 180 days --- from an additional 1 day to 18 days --- there was a total increase of 62 students. At the 74 schools remaining on the 180-day calendar, there was a total increase of 36 students.

Previous to this school year, archdiocesan elementary schools altogether had ten consecutive years of declining enrollment, with an average decrease of 1,700 students annually over the decade. 

A slight enrollment uptick of 100 students above the 2010-11 school year’s census of 51,477 was attributed last fall to a momentum sparked by a combination of factors: grass roots marketing efforts, adoption of an extended school year at many schools with student increases and sustained local effort by principals and school communities. 

Marketing efforts were aided by the Department of Catholic Schools’ Marketing Archdiocesan eXcellence in Los Angeles (MAX LA) campaign and other marketing initiatives with the University of Notre Dame and Catholic School Management.

“We’re excited about enrollment this fall to see where we are,” said Baxter. “We think the most significant piece of the current enrollment boost is the fact that this has happened over the course of the year when we haven’t traditionally done a lot of recruiting and it’s not our prime time to draw students into our schools.”

“Hopefully, we’re building steps to a future where we have more sustainable, larger growth,” beyond the current Catholic school enrollment of 52,000 elementary students and 30,000 high school students, said Baxter.

He points out that the 80,000 K-12 student enrollment in the L.A. Archdiocese’s 5 million Catholic population is proportionately much smaller in comparison to the 70,000 students in K-12 schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s 1.4 Catholic population.

“If we had a similar ratio, we would have over 200,000 students in our Catholic schools,” said Baxter. “We’ve got to start to challenge our church to believe that we’re underserving our Catholic population with our Catholic schools [and ask] how we can have a bigger vision for the future.”

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