Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Group Focuses On Future Of Catholic Schools

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published noviembre 15, 2007  | Available In English

Education is a key piece of the puzzle as Atlanta Archdiocese leaders use a three-year planning project to shape what the archdiocese will look like in 2015.

Specialists from Catholic University of America are reviewing the schools here as part of a comprehensive study.

The education subcommittee is one of four groups under the direction of the Archdiocesan Planning Committee. It is involved in a top-down review of the archdiocese. Next June, the implementation of the initiatives is to begin.

Karen Vogtner, longtime principal at St. John the Evangelist School, Hapeville, said Catholics in Atlanta will see changes in the education system.

“I think there will be a lot of opportunities that will open up as a result of the committee’s work,” she said.

The work from the education experts will be part of the reams of information used to write guidelines for the school system’s future, from education demographics and governance to where to open new schools. The education subcommittee is diving into the details now.

The affordability of a Catholic education is one of the most important areas under scrutiny, along with strengthening Catholic identity and serving the growing diversity of Catholics, Vogtner said.

The population boom is part of the reason the committee is developing a how-to book that will focus on the steps to open new schools, from population needs and finding locations to financial sustainability, said Vogtner, the vice chairwoman of the subcommittee. “We are looking at all sorts of projects,” she said.

Within 10 years, experts said the archdiocese will have to figure out the types of resources it provides as an additional 120,000 Catholics are expected to settle here.

Catholics raised a range of questions about educating young people during a series of meetings in September and October with parish leaders, from the high cost of an education at a Catholic school to serving multicultural communities in schools to coordinating the religious education curricula in parish schools of religion with that offered in Catholic schools.

Members working on the education subcommittee will have to navigate through potential landmines about sharing costs and what communities could host schools.

Some 24 questions at three planning meetings asked directly about the future of Catholic education here.

Here’s what Catholic education in Atlanta looks like now:

– About 9,200 students attend Catholic pre-kindergarten through high school.

– There are 15 archdiocesan elementary schools, three archdiocesan high schools and six independent Catholic schools

– Annual tuition for an archdiocesan school ranges from $5,500 for elementary school to close to $10,000 for high school.

Consultants said that to keep the current level of service requires an investment of millions of dollars and people.

Take just the 20 counties surrounding Atlanta. With an additional estimated 110,000 Catholics moving into the metropolitan area by 2015, it would require an additional six elementary schools and one high school.

To meet that challenge, the education subcommittee is to come up with a plan for “expanding the availability of high quality Catholic schools that are affordable to a wide range of economic segments.”

A frequent question among the parish leaders asked at Archdiocesan Planning Committee awareness meetings touched on the cost of the education and how to share the cost of any expansion between rural areas and metro Atlanta.

Also, tension exists between the roles of Catholic schools and religious education. Some parish leaders asked why the emphasis and money is put into schools when the vast majority of Catholic students are taught about their faith in parish-based religious education programs, which “suffer” from lack of funding, according to one questioner.