Beliefnet
The Deacon's Bench

While other parts of the country (notably the northeast) are struggling to keep schools open, it’s a different story down south:

catholic_0129_f_383573c.jpgAnne Mancini makes a sacrifice to send her daughter to Catholic School — she leaves her home by 6 a.m. crossing county lines to meet a chartered bus at a Suwanee mall bound for Blessed Trinity Catholic High School, an hour ride away.

“Those of us who have come from a Catholic background are certainly interested in having our children attend Catholic school,” Mancini said. “It positions our children well for college. The quality of education is very rigorous.”

Space is limited and in-demand as interest grows in metro Atlanta Catholic schools. Some parents believe the parochial education will give their kids a better shot at top colleges. Some want their kids to thrive in an environment that reinforces values taught at home. Others say a Catholic education is more affordable than most other private schools. Tuition averages $6,200, less than half as much as the comparable metro Atlanta independent school.

Catholic-educated mom Lynn Lynch is counting her blessings that she was able to get her kids into Queen of Angels Catholic School in Roswell, the Archdiocese of Atlanta’s most crowded campus. The school has a wait list with more than 200 names.

“I had a difficult time getting in and we live right next door, and were one of the first parishioners of the church on that campus,” Lynch said. “I have so many friends who never got in. They have waited five or six years and applied every year.”

The demand for Catholic schools is growing mostly because the flock itself is increasing. A decade ago there were about 311,000 Catholics in the metro Atlanta area, according to the Archdiocese of Atlanta, now there are about 850,000.

Archdiocese of Atlanta officials say the population spike is prompting a need for new Catholic schools to open and others to expand. As schools celebrate national Catholic Schools Week through Saturday, some administrators will review applications for new students with the understanding that their campuses could grow.

The Archdiocese has 18 schools under its leadership and six independent Catholic schools educating a total of about 11,800 students, about 85 percent of whom are Catholic. The Archdiocese of Boston, on the other hand, has more than five times as many schools.

“We are rather a young Archdiocese,” said Diane Starkovich, Catholic schools’ superintendent. “We don’t have a large school system, but we are continuing to feel the demand. We have a great number of families relocating here from the North who lived in an area where Catholic schools and Catholic churches were just a couple of miles apart. They want the same opportunities.”

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