Catholic school enrollment up in NJ as public education goes remote
About 870 students are enrolled at Christian Brothers Academy for September 2020. Just 20 of the students have requested to learn CBA's curriculum from home for the time being.
"But 850 kids will be coming in live, so I think that gives a good indication of how much they really do want to get in the classroom," said Brother Frank Byrne, president of the Catholic high school.
CBA, located in Lincroft, is offering full-day in-person instruction five days a week — similar to many Catholic schools in the Garden State. According to Byrne, the school has invested more than $250,000 for necessary health and safety upgrades to make this happen.
With many public schools opting to start the year virtually in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, or on some type of hybrid model that welcomes certain kids on certain days, Catholic educational institutions cite an uptick in interest from families who'd be willing to pay in order for their kid to get live instruction all week long.
CBA handled an increased number of inquiries over the summer, according to Byrne, and is actually handling more students in the 2020-2021 academic year than the school had budgeted for.
"We usually get a melt-off during the summertime, but that's one thing we haven't seen," Byrne said.
Inquiries and transfer applications this summer topped 60 for Saint Joseph High School in Metuchen. A "busy" summer would typically result in 15 to 20 of these requests, according to assistant principal Miguel Cabrita.
"Most of the conversations are because we are planning a full on-campus schedule where the kids are here five days a week," Cabrita said.
The private schools are still offering kids the option to learn remotely. In some cases, this is making more room for new students who'd like to be educated in person.
Saint John Vianney High School, in Holmdel, is recording a small bump in enrollment for September. Coming out of last school year's all-remote finish, the school worried many parents would be unable to afford tuition due to job loss, but there's been a stable return of students, according to principal Margaret Kane.
Beyond implementing social distancing, the high school has structured its layout to allow for one-way hallways and staircases.
"Our main role is to educate these students, and they are going to receive a great education," Kane said.
Parents, though, are not only basing their decisions on the quality of education. Schooling essentially serves as childcare for parents who can't adequately work and create a solid learning environment at home for their child or children.
St. Matthew School in Edison, which handles grades pre-K through 8, has seen plenty of interest from parents whose kids typically attend a public elementary school.
"We are taking a lot of kids," said administrative assistant ToniAnn Ambrosio, who noted there's still space for students in nearly every grade.
Even in a typical year, Ambrosio said, classrooms at St. Matthew School handle 15 or fewer students, so social distancing isn't too much of an obstacle.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.