Catholic school enrollment continued to decline this year, although at a slower pace than in recent years, according to the Archdiocese of Baltimore.
The archdiocese said the number of its students declined 4.3 percent this year. However, the latest statistics, as of Sept. 30, reflect the lowest rate of decline in the past four years.
After the archdiocese decided to close 13 schools at the end of the 2009-2010 school year, the schools' enrollment declined 9 percent, according to Sean Caine, a spokesman for the archdiocese.
About 66 percent of students in the schools that were closed decided to move to another school in the archdiocese. The archdiocese hoped that following the recommendations of a blue-ribbon committee formed to look at the future of the schools would turn around the declines.
"It is a sign of progress. It is reversing a trend," Caine said. Before the economic downturn, Caine said, schools were losing about 2 percent each year, but in recent years, the percentage declines have been higher.
Facing rising costs, a deficit and more than 1,000 empty seats, the archdiocese said a year and a half ago that it had no choice but to close some schools. The reorganization was particularly hard on some school communities, including Cardinal Gibbons High School, where alumni attempted to keep it open.
Caine added that the archdiocese has no plans to close any schools this year.
The enrollment trends show that the efforts made by the archdiocese, including changing the school governance, introducing new academic programs and emphasizing stronger school leadership, are "the right moves," Caine said.
Catholic school leaders believe the decline is the result of a poor economy and the need for more financial aid. About $6 million in financial aid was offered this year to 1,132 of the 28,000 students in the system, but families identified $10 million in need on financial aid forms.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times