Parochial schools are growing: Father McGivney is small but steady educator

News-DemocratSeptember 2, 2013 

Father McGivney Catholic High School in Maryville welcomed 32 freshmen this school year -- the school's second year of operation.

"I feel very blessed," said Principal Mike Scholz said. "We are working hard to make sure the school continues to grow."

The incoming freshmen joined the school's 19 sophomores for a total of 51 students. Scholz explained the new high school is being phased in over the next four years. "We anticipate next year it will be even higher," he said of the school's enrollment.

Next year, Father McGivney will serve freshmen, sophomores and juniors. The school is named after Father Michael McGivney, who is the founder of the Knights of Columbus.

As the school's enrollment increases, more teachers will be added. Currently, the school has six full-time teachers and three part-time teachers as well as a principal and activities director. Scholz said the average class size is 12 students.

Father McGivney added an early bird art class this year, which starts at 7:30 a.m., and a vocal and instrumental music class after school. "That way students can do both of them without interfering with academic classes during the day," Scholz said.

The school offers some sports including boys and girls basketball and boys and girls soccer. "We anticipate adding sports as we go," Scholz said.

The school occupies a portion of St. John Neumann Catholic School. However, Scholz said Father McGivney will soon construct its own building on 80 acres the school owns in Glen Carbon, north of Anderson Hospital. "Our goal has always been that this group of sophomores graduate from the new high school," he said, "and we're working to achieve that."

Father McGivney serves a variety of students from both Madison and St. Clair counties. Students attending the school live in Staunton, Highland, Collinsville, Glen Carbon, Maryville and O'Fallon, according to Scholz. "We have had great support from the metro-east area," he said.

Freshman Cody Johnson, 14, of Staunton, said he loves the school and "how nice everyone is. Nobody gets made fun of, and everybody is nice to everybody," he said.

Freshman Emily Kowalski, 14, of Maryville, said she enjoys the atmosphere at Father McGivney. "It's so much different, but it's a good kind of different," she said. "There's so many teachers that really care about you, and it's such a good environment to be in."

The school emphasizes theology and community service. Scholz said four times a year the school's entire staff and student body participates in community service days. Instead of attending school, everyone goes to a work site and volunteers.

"It's a really important part of who we are and what we do," he said. The first community service day this school year is Oct. 11 at the Maryville YMCA.

Father McGivney has a strong focus on technology as well. Scholz said the school uses electronic books rather than traditional textbooks, and all students have a laptop. "We believe very strongly that's the way kids learn the best," he said. "Our pledge to our students is we will be on the cutting edge of technology always. Our kids love it and so do our teachers."

Gibault Catholic High School in Waterloo has also seen a spike in enrollment this school year. Director of Enrollment Patricia Herzing said the school serves 261 students up from 227 last year. "This is the highest enrollment numbers that we've had in seven years," she said.

Herzing credited the increase in enrollment to the flexibility the school provides its students. "It's difficult to tell the difference between Gibault and a college campus," she said. "Our schedule and electronic curriculum gives the student freedom and responsibility. Both parents and students value that."

Mater Dei Catholic High School in Breese has 455 students this school year, which is the exact number of students the school had last year, according to Principal Dennis Litteken.

Enrollment at Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville has remained steady over the last several years, Principal David Harris said. The school's enrollment is 381 students, which Harris said is around the same as last year.

Governor French Academy in Belleville is serving 160 students from 4 years old to 12th grade this school year, according to Carol S. Wilson, director of admissions. This is a decrease of about seven students from last school year, Wilson said.

Enrollment numbers at parochial grade schools in the metro-east are holding steady. Blessed Sacrament School in Belleville has 212 students this year, which is the same as last year, Principal Claire Hatch said.

Cathedral Grade School in Belleville has 140 students, Principal Linda Hobbs said, which is "down a little bit." Cathedral serves students, 3 years old up to eighth grade.

St. Teresa Catholic School in Belleville is serving 303 kindergarten through eighth-grade students and 30 pre-kindergarten students. "We are up about 10 kids from last year," Principal Dennis Grimmer said.

Our Lady Queen of Peace in Belleville has also seen a slight increase in enrollment, according to Principal Sharon Needham. The school's enrollment is at 200 students, and last year, it served 192 students, Needham said. "We have an exceptionally large pre-k class this year," she said at 24 students.

The enrollment at Zion Lutheran School in Belleville is down 10 to 15 students from last year, Principal Dave Kniepkamp said. The school has 255 kindergarten through eighth-grade students and 57 pre-kindergarten students.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or jforsythe1@bnd.com.

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