Unchanged Values Make Catholic Schools Popular
Mask, Teresa, Kane, Arthur, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Teresa Mask and Arthur Kane Daily Herald Staff Writers
There was a time when St. Thomas More Catholic School in Elgin was filled with nuns in habits and priests in white collars.
Many Fox Valley adults can still recall being surrounded by the religious images and symbols that accompanied education in Catholic schools.
Today those images aren't so apparent. No nuns and few priests teach at St. Thomas More. The same is true of the other Catholic elementary and high schools in the Fox Valley.
But even though the clergy aren't at the head of the classes, the message of becoming model citizens with Christian values still prevails.
"(Because of that) students in our schools have a better-than-average chance to be successful in whatever they do," said George Laird, superintendent of St. Edward High School.
And that's what Catholic schools across the country are celebrating this week.
Beginning Monday, students will shed their uniforms for more casual clothes, such as jeans and pajamas, depending on the day, and participate in several fun activities.
They will be reminded that their faith is founded on love and that even when they themselves fail, God still loves them.
"We need to grab these kids' hearts and keep them. Our mission is to be more evangelistic, to be honest," Laird said.
The theme for this year's Catholic School's Week is "Schools You Can Believe In."
And constant enrollment figures prove the community still believes in and supports the private schools. Several of the schools have waiting lists of 20 or more students because the classrooms are full. Priority is given to residents who are members of area Catholic churches.
Tuition at the schools range from $1,200 to $3,500 depending on the school and whether the student belongs to a Catholic church.
Parents don't seem to mind the costs, even though they also must pay property taxes for public schools.
Those who send their children to Catholic schools say they do so because they want them in a safe, clean environment. They believe the academic standards are better and they like the religious teachings of the schools, Laird said.
Religion is no longer the No. 1 reason parents are sending their children to the schools, but it remains a focal point of their education.
Prayer begins each class at the high school and religion is woven in much of the teaching.
"Our teaching is built on the foundation of the Catholic Church, but the misconception comes in that we are converting students," Laird said. "We help to build the faith of our Catholic students and inform the non-Catholics of our beliefs. …