More Parents Choose Parochial Alternative
McCoppin, Robert, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Robert McCoppin Daily Herald Staff Writer
Summer is far from over, but parochial schools already are in a fall frame of mind.
Religious schools across DuPage County are opening their doors to returning students.
Schools such as Wheaton Academy in West Chicago, as well as Catholic and Lutheran schools elsewhere, report increased enrollment.
The swelling numbers continue a steady trend of the past several years that in some cases reversed previously declining enrollments.
"I see a renewed interest in what we're offering," Wheaton Academy Headmaster David Roth said. "In addition to solid academics, a disciplined atmosphere where we have a little more control over the quality of our teaching staff."
"Parents are recognizing they're not getting their kids learning about spiritual matters through television," said James Kirchhoff, superintendent of schools for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in northern Illinois.
Another factor in the growth, Kirchhoff said, is the preschool boom. There are nine elementary Lutheran schools in DuPage, each with a preschool, plus nine other preschools that draw new students.
Kirchhoff attributes the preschool growth to awareness that education at an early age is key to development.
Attendance at Lutheran schools in DuPage last year stood at 3,690, and grows 5 to 10 percent each year, Kirchhoff estimated.
Tuition varies at each school, ranging from zero at two churches to $1,060 for church members, to $2,650 for nonmembers.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Joliet, which operates 30 elementary schools and five high schools in DuPage, credits part of its increase to catering to families with two working parents.
New preschool and extended-care centers get children started in programs that can take care of students from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Enrollment is projected to grow 2 percent this year to 12,099 students.
"Our biggest advantage," said Sister Helen Jean Kormelink, superintendent of Catholic Schools in Joliet, "is our parents choose the school, and after they make a sacrifice and pay tuition, they stay involved."
The biggest change at Catholic schools this year is a pilot program of integrated curriculum at four DuPage schools. The program, which has been in use at public schools, encourages teachers to teach related issues in different subjects. …