Catholic High School Strives To Revive Enrollment
JEFFERSON CITY - Columbia may have just opened a new Catholic high school, but Jefferson City has had one for 56 years.
But lately, less students have been coming through the doors of Helias Catholic High School. 915 students were enrolled in 2004. Now that number has dwindled to 770.
Dean Stan Ochsner says the problem begins at the elementary school level.
"We've never really had any issues with kids dropping out," he says. "It's really more of making the decision to come here in the first place."
Catholic elementary schools nationwide have felt the impact. Nationwide, nearly half of them have had to close since the mid-1960s.
Ochsner partly blames the economy for the decline in enrollment at Helias.
"For people to have the money to pay tuition is a little more challenging," he says. "Probably more than it's been in the past."
Ochsner also says more parents now let kids decide whether they want to attend Catholic school. Before, parents would make that decision.
Catholic High Schools can be expensive, but the dean says tuition is not to blame. Currently, it's $4,150 per year.
"Most of the Catholic schools in the St. Louis area are at least double, maybe triple," he says.
In hopes of attracting more students, Halias will hold an open house from 6-8:30 p.m. on Nov. 14. Teachers will hold mock classes, debate team practice and book club discussions, among other things.
"When you make that choice of where you're going to send your child to school, that's a huge decision, especially when money is involved," student Brian Oxenhandler says. "Sometimes you drive by this school but you don't really know what it has to offer."
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