Pittsburgh Diocese: Decline in school enrollment leveling off
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About 21,000 students began a new year in Catholic schools across the Diocese of Pittsburgh, a total that includes steady enrollment figures in grades 9-12 and a decrease of 1 to 1.5 percent in grades K-8, an official said Wednesday.
Final numbers will not be available until Oct. 1, said Robert L. Paserba, secretary for Catholic Education and Evangelization. But he told a news conference marking the new school year that the diocese believes the figures ultimately will reflect a continued leveling off from sharper declines of several years ago.
Among those attending the news conference was Michael Latusek, the diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, appointed last month by Bishop David Zubik. The appointment took effect Sept. 1.
Average tuition for a first child in elementary school is $3,450 this year, up $150 from last year. High school tuition averages $8,950, or $600 higher than a year ago.
Mr. Paserba pointed to recent efforts at consolidation and cooperation efforts among schools and said those efforts will continue.
"There will be further and ongoing dialogue in fall 2012 within each of the four vicariates with parishes, with schools and parishes without schools, all aimed at the reorganization of Catholic elementary schools that will ensure their long-term viability," he said.
The emphasis will be less on school closures than on cooperative efforts, including what the diocese calls a "consortium of parishes model" in which efforts are made to increase the geographic area covered by a school by adding parishes not currently served by a school.
Mr. Paserba said site preparation is under way for a new high school on Route 228 in Cranberry that will replace North Catholic. The new school, which will be called Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School, is expected to open in fall 2014 and will enroll about 1,000 students.
He touted student performance across the diocese on spring 2012 standardized tests scores. He said reading scores in grades K-8 were significantly above the national norm, noting that fourth-grade students were 2.3 years ahead of the national norm and seventh-graders were four years above the norm. Grade 9 and 10 students will be tested in the fall.
In math, average test scores "greatly exceeded" the national norm, Mr. Paserba said. Grade 6 students were 2.5 years above the norm, eighth-graders were 2.6 years ahead of the norm, and grades 9 and 10 students scored 3.6 years above the norm and at least 2.8 years above the norm, respectively.
Mr. Paserba said the district's school financing policy, enacted in 1994-95, has successfully shifted costs of operating schools to tuition, fundraising and other development, and away from parishes.
The share of school operations subsidized by parishes on average is now 25 percent, he said, down from 54 percent in the mid-1990s.
First Published September 13, 2012 12:00 am