CAPITAL REGION, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Local catholic schools are reporting a significant increase in enrollment this school year. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany told NEWS10 that while their official census day is in early October, “this year’s preliminary figures indicate about a 4% increase in enrollment across the Diocese overall with several schools seeing double digit increases between 14% and 25%.”
Similar figures are being seen in other states. The Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts reported a 13 percent increase in first day enrollment over last year’s numbers.
Principals at St. Mary’s in Waterford, St. Kateri Tekakwitha in Schenectady, and St. Pius X in Loudonville all say parents have chosen to make the switch from public to private education because of the way their smaller schools have been able to handle the pandemic.
“A small school like us, we’re able to socially distance better than a larger school,” said St. Mary’s Catholic School Principal Matthew Rucinski.
“We made it through last year, where only two days we had to quarantine the entire school,” said Tosha Grimmer, Principal of St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish School in Schenectady, “and our safety protocols are great, and we’re able to keep the kids engaged and in school.”
“We’ve been very successful in having in-person instruction throughout the pandemic. We were able to be in school, every day, for all of last year,” said St. Pius X Catholic School Principal Danielle Cox.
Kim Parker, a mother in Troy, made the switch for her kids from the Lansingburgh Central School District to St. Mary’s just about three weeks into the school year.
The pandemic led to bus driver shortages in many districts, which was a headache for Parker, who doesn’t think LCSD communicated the issue very well.
“We have three kids that were in three different buildings, so three different bus routes,” Parker told NEWS10, “and we were spending hours at the bus stop. It impacted different areas of our lives.”
On top of that, a September 16th media post suggested violence would occur at one of the Lansingburgh schools. Detectives investigated and found the post not to be credible.
Lansingburgh superintendent Dr. Antonio Abitabile told NEWS10 their transportation contractor is working hard to smooth out remaining bus issues, and the district increased communication with parents. He added that students are being trained on the responsibilities of using the internet to prevent future online threats.
But it’s too late for Parker’s kids, who are now enjoying the new opportunities they’ve been given at St. Mary’s.
“it was a huge weight lifted off our shoulders in many ways to be here, and the kids feel better being here,” Parker said.
Now small schools like St. Mary’s are kicking off the fall with longer attendance sheets, and confidence that the year will go smoothly, despite still being in a COVID world.
“The first rule in teaching every year is flexibility, but especially this year, the regulations are changing on a daily basis. We have to be flexible,” Rucinski said.
“Children are very resilient. So far, just being in the classroom, with their teachers and friends, that’s what’s really important to them. Things like mask wearing and some of the other protocols haven’t affected them greatly,” said Cox.