By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Thanks to the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF), four Catholic elementary schools in southwest Louisville — St. Paul School, St. Nicholas, St. Andrew and Notre Dame academies — will have access to an additional $200,000 in tuition assistance for students.
The goal behind the initiative, which was announced Jan. 12, is to add at least 100 new students across the four schools for the 2015-2016 academic year, Richard A. Lechleiter, CEF president, said in an interview last week.
“We would like to see at least 100 new students in these four schools. If 200 show up we will find a way to finance it. The more the better,” Lechleiter said. “We have plenty of capacity for growth in these schools.”
The four schools currently receive about $300,000 collectively from the foundation. With the addition of the annual commitment of $200,000, that will bring the total amount of aid to about half of a million dollars among the four schools.
It’s aid that Lechleiter said is needed.
This initiative is just one part of the CEF’s plan to significantly increase tuition assistance to all families interested in Catholic education — in all parts of the Archdiocese of Louisville. The archdiocese and the CEF announced jointly last November a plan to provide increased financial aid to families who do not have the resources to send their children to Catholic schools.
Lechleiter said the decision to grow the enrollment at these four schools along the Dixie Highway corridor was made after his staff conducted a needs-based assessment of Catholic education across the archdiocese.
“What we’ve concluded is that southwest Louisville has the greatest need for Catholic education. It goes beyond socioeconomics. That has really spurred us to develop this initiative with these schools,” Lechleiter said.
Collectively the four schools have an enrollment of 1,279 students — St. Paul has 226, St. Nicholas has 384, St. Andrew has 240 and Notre Dame has 429. About one in four of these students receive tuition assistance from the CEF.
In order to attract additional pupils, the four schools, along with the CEF, have created a recruitment letter that will target 20,000 households in six zip codes — 40118, 40214, 40215, 40216, 40258 and 40272.
- Kevin Brever, St. Paul School principal, said this expanded partnership will allow his school to reach out to many more people in the area.
“Here’s an opportunity to say, ‘Hey, look the CEF is doing some things here to help folks in this area of town, to get new students and families to visit schools, to learn about the opportunity the school community has and to help out financially,’ ” he said.
St. Paul has 226 students in preschool through eighth grade, including 48 in the three- and four-year-old classrooms.
“Hopefully they (three- and four-year-olds) will continue the journey with us. Even those that are not Catholic. We want them to understand the value of it and stick around,” he said.
Brever said it’s the school’s short-term goal to have 70% of the preschoolers to stay and enroll in kindergarten.
St. Paul School, 6901 Dixie Highway, will host an open house Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m.
- Kathy DeLozier, principal of St. Nicholas Academy, said aid from the CEF keeps the school viable and emphasized that it wasn’t a “one and done” type of commitment.
“Rich’s big thing is once we get the families here, we will continue to support them,” she said.
DeLozier noted that her school, which has students from seven or eight different zip codes, has received more funding than any other elementary school. In the last 10 years, the CEF has given St. Nicholas $1 million for tuition assistance.
“They’ve just been incredible. I don’t think we would have made it 10 years without the help of the CEF,” she said.
St. Nicholas has 384 students in prekindergarten to eighth grade. The school has the most diverse student population of Catholic elementary schools with 46 students who do not speak English at home. Twenty-seven percent of the students are on free or reduced lunch.
DeLozier said that a special effort has been made to attract more families from St. John Vianney Church, where there is a significant Vietnamese population. She said they are working to get the recruitment material translated.
“We currently have 40 students from St. John Vianney but they have 130 in the CCD program,” she said.
St. Nicholas, 5501 New Cut Road, will host an open house Jan. 28 from 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Jennifer Barz, principal of St. Andrew Academy, said that to receive this type of financial commitment is a big deal for the schools in southwest Louisville.
“We’ve been working together to get the word out. We want people, especially those people who have never considered a Catholic education before, to take time and really feel the charge to seek out one of our schools.
“I think all of the schools in southwest Louisville have unique qualities and something to offer all families,” Barz said.
St. Andrew has 240 students in prekindergarten to eighth-grade, 60 of those are in the school’s preschool program.
St. Andrew, 7724 Columbine Drive, will host an open house Jan. 25 from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
- Bernice Scherr, principal of Notre Dame Academy, said this effort is about trying to get the word out and people in the door.
“If we can get people in the door and they see the nurturing atmosphere and the teachers in action, we can get them (to stay) here,” Scherr said.
Notre Dame, 1927 Lewiston Drive, will host an open house Jan. 28 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Notre Dame has 429 students in kindergarten to eighth-grade. Scherr noted that her school is located nearest to neighborhoods in the West End, where there are no Catholic schools. About 15-20 students from the West End attend Notre Dame, a fact not lost on Lechleiter.
He said the foundation is in close communication with representatives from parishes in the West End and the Community Catholic Center, an organization that assists families in Portland and the surrounding neighborhoods who want to provide a Catholic education for their children.
Lechleiter said he wants families to know the Catholic education experience is for all people, Catholic or not.
“If we listen to Pope Francis speaking daily about the idea of outreach and inclusion and diversity — these are woven into almost everything he discusses. As Catholics that should resonate with all of us … to reach out to those who may be different from us,” he said.