KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After experiencing a decline in enrollment due to COVID-19, the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City and St. Joseph says enrollment is rebounding.
For the first time in 10 years, schools saw an enrollment increase in the diocese.
Karen Kroh, Superintendent for schools at the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City and St. Joseph, says the diocese experienced a 6.2% decline in enrollment during the last two years.
“Most of that was a result of kindergarten, preschool families choosing to delay school year with the uncertainty related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Kroh explained.
The diocese says it has seen a 3.4% increase in enrollment over the previous year, and Kroh said the latest rebound shows parents in the area are looking at options when it comes to their child’s education.
“I think our public school partners face additional logistical challenges, transportation being one, the size of their schools and the number of students they serve being another,” Kroh said. “In Catholic schools, each school operates as its own entity and so there are less logistical challenges and I will say our teachers and principals have been heroic in their efforts to keep kids in school every day.”
Ricky Olivares decided to take his children out of public school and enrolled both of his children in Visitation Catholic School in Kansas City.
Olivares said the pandemic brought his family a lot of stress, especially while his children were remote learning and he was working from home.
“We cannot split our time to be teachers,” Olivares said. “The fact that kids in Catholic schools have been going and have continued going to school is a big part.”
Smaller class sizes also played a role in Olivares’ decision-making, and once enrolled, he noticed a positive change in his children’s academic performance. The school was also able to determine one of his kids had a learning disability.
“Whether it was spawned through the years of non-attention or it's just been there, and we are very thankful that that was found that they've been going to school on a daily basis, have not missed thanks to another Covid shutdown,” Olivares said.
The National Education Catholic Association reports nationwide, Catholic school enrollment saw an increase by 3.8% — the first increase in two decades and the largest recorded increase.
The Catholic Diocese of Kansas City and St. Joseph predicts the boost in enrollment will continue into the 2022-2023 school year.
Last year, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed a bill into law that established the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Account Program.
The program is still under development by the state treasurer, but it would allow donors to put money into the program and in return, they would receive a tax credit.
The annual tax credit cap amount for 2022 is $25 million, and once it’s up and running, qualifying public school families can use the money to attend a school of their choice.
The money can be used for tuition, books, educational therapies and more.
The diocese believes this will help them continue to boost their numbers.
“We look forward to having all the rules from the state of Missouri available to us so that we can reach out to families and let them know there is some support out there depending on if they meet the criteria,” Kroh said.