Elementary school study may help shape the future

By Glenn Rutherford, Record Editor

Among the revelations contained in the recently-released “Catholic Elementary School Report” is a bit of information about the availability of local Catholic schools.

The study used St. Raphael Church, near the intersection of Bardstown Road and the Watterson Expressway as the center of the county, and found that from that location, all 30 Catholic elementary schools in Jefferson County can be reached within a 20-minute drive.

Using a similar method outside of Jefferson County — with the Basilica of St. Joseph Proto-Cathedral in Bardstown as the center and starting point — seven of the eight archdiocesan schools in rural areas are located within a 35 minute drive, and within a 23-mile radius of that starting point. (The lone exception is St. Aloysius School in Pewee Valley.)

The first paragraph of the report captures its purpose and importance. It says:

The future of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville is dependent on leadership and careful planning. This report has been compiled to provide parish and school leaders with data to assist them as they study and consider the best ways to address challenges facing Catholic elementary schools. While the focus of this study is on K-8 schools, the information will certainly inform those charged with planning for secondary education as well.

Dr. Brian Reynolds, chancellor and chief administrative officer for the archdiocese, said in a recent interview that the results of the report, together with responses currently being sought from parishes, will “lead to a strategy for our schools that we can integrate into our next strategic plan.”

“This is a process that does not start with problem solving,” he explained. “We are just analyzing the present situation, identifying where our schools have strengths and where they face challenges.”

Schools, the chancellor noted, are an “evangelizing connection with the community.”

“They exist to proclaim the gospel,” he said.

While enrollment numbers for Catholic elementary schools are “trending down,” Reynolds noted that the report shows “there is a Catholic school available within a 30-minute drive to 95 percent of our children.”

The report also revealed that 55 percent of registered Catholic families enroll their children in Catholic schools; 37 percent enroll their children in public schools; eight percent in private or Christian schools.

“It’s important to note that all of the 37 percent of people who have children in public schools are within 30 minutes of a Catholic elementary school,” Reynolds added.

Surprisingly, the report also revealed that, while the cost of Catholic schools  is a consideration, 52 percent of parents who have children not attending Catholic schools did not cite finances as a reason for not attending.

“We need to address costs by helping families,” Reynolds said. “But we know that if we get more people into our schools, the costs will go down. We’re asking ourselves the question: How do we make Catholic schools more available?”

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