Study: Catholic Schools Boost Neighborhoods

Article excerpt

Catholic elementary schools help thwart decay in city neighborhoods, says a study by a local consulting firm.

Some families are so tied to parish schools, they do not want to flee to the suburbs, says the study, scheduled for release today. If a school shut down, the neighborhood could collapse, the study says.

Surveys and focus groups with more than 100 parents showed that: * Nearly 78 percent stayed in their neighborhoods because of a Catholic school. * Almost 74 percent of new residents - those living in a neighborhood for less than two years - said a Catholic school was a "very important" reason for moving to the area. * About 42 percent of families living outside a parish cited the nearby Catholic school as a reason for staying or moving into their neighborhoods. Families questioned also said Catholic schools provided children with top academic and athletic programs and the neighborhood with a place to hold meetings and fund-raising and social events. Some said public schools did not offer all these things. It's easier for a Catholic school to serve a neighborhood because it's run by the parish - not the Archdiocese of St. Louis, said George Henry, superintendent of Catholic education for the archdiocese, the state's largest school system. Nearly 60,000 students attend Catholic schools in the area. "Catholic schools instill pride and ownership in neighborhoods," Henry said. There are 27 Catholic elementary schools in the city. Development Strategies, a local consulting firm, did the study, which focused on three parish schools: St. Margaret of Scotland School in the Shaw neighborhood; St. Roch School in Skinker-DeBaliviere; and St. Engelbert School in Penrose. Despite the study's findings, enrollment at St. Engelbert and St. Roch has dropped since 1994. St. Margaret saw a slight increase in the 1995-96 school year. School officials for the archdiocese said this was mostly because some parents in these low- to middle-income neighborhoods cannot afford to send their children to Catholic schools, where tuition averages $3,000 a year. …