Enrollment up in Catholic Schools Despite Pandemic

Enrollment up in Catholic Schools Despite Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic drastically impacted schools across the country, forcing many to pivot to remote learning, which eliminates a vital part of the educational experience. Additionally, Catholic schools throughout the nation have experienced decreases in enrollment. But schools in the Diocese of Greensburg have had a different experience — enrollment has jumped 13%, and students have primarily received in-person education in the 2020-21 school year. Diocesan administrators and teachers feel this is the best way to educate students. Dr. Maureen Marsteller, Superintendent of Catholic Schools, discussed the effects of the pandemic and what has been provided to Diocesan students during this time.

Q: How has the pandemic affected Catholic schools, and what has been done to provide a safe environment in the classrooms?

A: The pandemic has really caused the children to live in a different kind of world, but at least we were able to be in person, which provided them with a little bit of normalcy in a very strange and unusual world. We did our part. Students had to have masks on at all times and did not engage in group activities. Our schools were constantly cleaned and disinfected. It was a very different experience than we have had in the past. But our students were provided with structure, with classes, with in-person learning, as well as virtual learning options to those who may have been uncomfortable in a live classroom setting. But most of all, I think our parents were happy to have their children come to a place that provided them with some normalcy during the school day.

Q: How do you feel about the increase in enrollment at Diocesan schools, and what factors contributed to this increase?

A: I’m very excited about the growth we have experienced this year. It is coincidental that just about the time we were becoming aware of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were also instituting the TOP Student (St. Pope John Paul II Tuition Opportunity Partnership) program. A very generous donor wanted to make sure any student who wanted a Catholic school education could get one. It really targeted our middle-income people, who found it a little difficult to provide a Catholic education financially for their child. This opened many doors. We had children already in our schools who were able to remain in our schools, and we had new students who wanted to be part of our schools. Although we are thrilled with the 13% increase, we know it could have been much larger. Because students were required to be six feet apart in the classroom, we had to limit class size for their safety, and that is most important. Hopefully in the future, we won’t have a pandemic as a limiting factor on spacing in our schools, and we will be able to maximize our full potential of reaching anyone who wants a Catholic education.

Q: What are the advantages of a Catholic education?  

A: Students are taught to know, love and serve God. They are given insight to what their purpose is on Earth, but more importantly, they’re also taught that God loves them, and that is an exciting concept for them. I don’t think you’ll find that in many other schools, and that to me is an advantage that is worth any amount of money. They carry that with them throughout their lives, regardless of anything else they might learn. We also treat the child as a whole — spiritually, academically, socially and physically — and try to address each facet of the child in the best way possible. Our schools provide an education that teaches them about God, themselves and their worth in this world. That is an education that’s absolutely priceless.


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