Catholic Schools Week is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. It begins the last Sunday in January, which in 2020 is Sunday, Jan. 26, and runs through Saturday, Feb. 4. The theme for Catholic Schools Week is “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” During Catholic Schools Week, schools across the Diocese, and across the country, mark the occasion with masses and special entertainment and activities for the students, families, parishioners and members of their extended communities. Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and the school’s contributions to our church, our communities and our nation.
On Long Island, Catholic Elementary Schools celebrate the week with masses and open houses to thank parents and parishioners, and to introduce new families to the benefits of a Catholic education. These frequently kick off with a mass and open house on the Sunday, Jan. 26, but can be held earlier, as St. Patrick School in Huntington is doing on Thursday, Jan. 23. In addition to the open house to welcome new visitors, Catholic Schools Week features a series of events designed to recognize the contributions of students, parents and faculty during the course of the week. Many schools also offer additional open houses and opportunities for prospective new families to visit during the week as well.
Catholic schools are unique in many significant ways, and Catholic Schools Week highlights many of those differences. First, Catholic education acknowledges the parents as the original teachers in each of our lives and celebrates the continued and ongoing involvement of parents in their child’s education and with their child’s school. Catholic education is not a “bystander sport” for parents and their participation and service to their child’s education is celebrated with recognition and acknowledgment events to thank them for their commitment.
Catholic Schools Week is also a week to acknowledge the teachers and administrators from the schools who give so much of themselves because they believe in the value of a Catholic education. The teacher’s and staff’s contributions are often recognized through special breakfasts and luncheons that are often prepared by and served by grateful parents.
And Catholic Schools Week is a highlight on every student’s calendar. There are interactive game shows, magic shows, animal acts and special guests who come and read to the students, science fairs, book fairs, father-daughter dances, sports competitions, faculty–student contests and much more.
Catholic Schools Week is also the best opportunity for families who might be considering the benefits of a Catholic education to experience first-hand the commitment to academic excellence and faith formation in your local school. There you’ll find a unique community environment where children are surrounded by other children, families and a parish, which serve to reinforce moral values and beliefs. The open houses are an opportunity to meet the highly experienced teachers, see the creative classrooms and learn how Catholic elementary schools leverage technology across the curriculum and throughout the school. Prospective families who tour the facilities are introduced to the innovative reading and math programs that accelerate academic achievement. They also get to see how the safe, loving, supportive and orderly environment in a Catholic school makes it the perfect environment to support learning.
As many of the touring parents have said, the best part of the visit during Catholic Schools Week is being able to see and feel the difference that a value-centered education can make for every child. This is frequently reinforced by the contact prospective families have with the seventh and eighth grade students, most often as tour guides. When you see the confident, caring and courteous individuals these young men and women have become, you begin to really understand the Catholic school difference.
Frequently asked questions
Q As a school family, how do I participate?
A Each school publishes a complete list of events and activities taking place in their school during the week. School families are encouraged to visit the website of their school.
Q As a family considering a Catholic education, how do I learn more?
A Catholic Schools Week features open houses at the schools where parents and students can visit the school(s) they think they might be interested in and get a tour of the facility, be introduced to the teachers, meet some of the current families and children and generally learn about the academic, spiritual, social and physical development programs.
Q As a prospective family, do I have an “assigned school?”
A One of the first differences you will notice about Catholic school is that you get to select the school that you believe your children will be most successful in. There is no direct “assignment” based on where you live and most school districts provide busing to the school of your choice within a 15-mile radius.
Q Is there a difference in tuition to attend a different school?
A Long Island’s Catholic Elementary Schools set their own tuitions so they vary slightly, but there is no penalty for choosing a school outside of your parish or town if you are a parishioner in the Diocese.
Q What are the tuition rates for the schools?
A Each school gets to set their tuitions independently based on their costs but on average, annual tuition is approximately $5,500 per year.
Q Are non-Catholics welcome in the schools?
A The schools are welcoming places to everyone without regard to race, religion or national origin. A religion class is a requirement, students participate in liturgies and faith is an integrated part of daily activities, but many schools have a significant population of students who attend because of the quality of the education alone.
Q What should parents look for during their visit?
A Many parents of current students tell us that their decision was emotional and based on a feeling of warmth and caring they got during their visit. Others are more analytical and make direct comparisons based on the results of standardized test scores and high school admittance history. Regardless of how you make your decision, the schools are “open books” during this week, providing whatever information prospective families desire to support their decision. There is also a series of video interviews at www.licatholicelementaryschools.org where current parents offer their advice on how to get the most out of your visit.
Q When parents select Catholic school, what are the most frequently cited reasons?
A The reasons that are most frequently mentioned are: academic excellence, the reinforcement of the values lived at home, Catholic religious identity, a safe, nurturing environment for learning, more individualized attention to each student’s learning needs, an outstanding extracurricular program and the level of partnership established with parents.
Q Will attending a Catholic elementary school help my child get into a prestigious Catholic high school?
A Attending a Catholic elementary school isn’t the only way to get into a Catholic high school, but it is still the best way. The Catholic high schools are open to all students and typically have a very significant number of students from a public school background. Students qualify for Catholic high school through a test for 8th graders that is administered in October of each year. Typically, the students from Catholic elementary schools are best prepared for the academic rigor, the integrated program of faith and values and the service orientation of the high schools. Virtually all of the students from Catholic elementary school (99 percent) are admitted to a Catholic high school with the vast majority getting into the school that is their first choice.
Q How can I learn more or choose the school(s) I would like to visit?
A There is a resource for families on the internet that provides a very complete picture of the Catholic elementary school experience. It features an interactive map that is your guide to each of Long island’s distinctive Catholic schools and that lets you view the geographic options for your children at www.licatholicelementaryschools.org.
Gary E. Layton is the director of marketing and enrollment for the Diocese of Rockville Centre.