The number of students enrolled at Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago dropped this fall, driven by a decrease in younger students and continuing a nationwide trend of fewer students receiving a Catholic-based education.
Student enrollment is down 10.6% from last year, with a large portion of that decline coming from prekindergarten students, according to the archdiocese.
“We expected this because a lot of stay-at-home parents are keeping their kids home,” said archdiocese spokesman Manuel Gonzales.
Archdiocesan students returned to in-person learning this fall, while the schools also offered remote learning for students who weren’t comfortable returning to the classroom.
But some parents were dissatisfied with the remote learning options while still having to pay tuition.
Enrollment in kindergarten through eighth grade saw a 5% decrease, which makes up a bulk of Catholic school students, Gonzales said.
The archdiocese had just over 69,000 students for the 2018-19 school year, according to its website. In 2003, about 117,000 students were enrolled in the Catholic schools in Cook and Lake counties.
The numbers mirror a nationwide trend of declining Catholic school enrollment and a trend that Chicago’s public school system has also experienced. Nationally, Catholic school student enrollment has declined by more than 430,000 since 2008, according to the National Catholic Education Association.
Enrollment at Chicago Public Schools has been declining for almost two decades, with drops each year since 2003, when 434,000 enrolled. Last school year, CPS enrolled a little more than 363,000 students for 2019-20.
Despite dwindling numbers, the archdiocese still has one of the country’s best-performing school systems. The Catholic school system has received more Blue Ribbon Awards, a distinction given by the U.S. Department of Education to schools for academic excellence, than any other school system in the country.
©2020 the Chicago Tribune
Visit the Chicago Tribune at www.chicagotribune.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.