ACS enrollment steady despite more tuition help requests

Published 7:33 am Friday, September 4, 2009

Enrollment at Austin Catholic Schools this year is “steady” despite more students seeking help with tuition. Director Mary Holtorf said 344 kids are registered in preschool through 12th grade, up two students from 2008-2009.

“I see a lot of needy families who really want to see their kids in Catholic schools,” she said. Their biggest challenge now is tuition assistance. One year at ACS costs $6,000.

“If you divide that by 10, that’s a lot (per month),” Holtorf said. “Most families pay monthly.”

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Students may confidentially apply for assistance, she said. A large scholarship is also awarded to one family per year.

Holtorf said more families have indicated they are interested in enrolling their children at ACS because of the small class sizes.

“We try to keep them below 20 if we can,” she said. If classes reach 30 students they are split into sections, but that is uncommon.

Enrollment: 344 in preK-12, up two students from 2008-2009

2010 senior class: 23 students; 14 graduated in 2009

New teachers: Jamie Docken, first grade; Elizabeth Noble, K-8 Spanish; Carolyn Miller, middle school math; and Joan Hagen, fourth grade

What’s different: new kindergarten prep enrichment in preschool; sixth-graders will be included with grades 7-8 at Pacelli Middle School (formerly called the junior high); and seventh- and eighth-graders will now have Spanish class

Religious values are another reason families express interest, as well as having a “safe environment where kids don’t fall through the cracks,” Holtorf said.

“Because they are paying for something, sometimes they look at it as an investment,” she added.

There are several changes and additions this year at ACS, including enrichment activities four days a week to prepare preschoolers for kindergarten, such as visual phonics.

A new K-8 Spanish teacher, Elizabeth Noble, has been hired, so seventh- and eighth-graders will have Spanish language education. K-6 and 9-12 had Spanish last year, but the school didn’t have teachers for the other two grades.

“We just didn’t have the manpower before,” Holtorf said.

Two years of Spanish is required in high school, but it will be standard in K-8. Other language classes can be taken at Austin Public Schools.

Another addition is the move of sixth grade over to the junior high, where they will join the seventh and eighth grades. The school is now called the middle school, and is located on the third floor of Pacelli High School.

“I’m really excited about our middle school,” she said. “That age group I think needs our attention.”

ACS has 13 foreign exchange students this year, and they are planning a potluck later this month to introduce them to school traditions and activities.

There are 23 seniors this year; 14 graduated in 2009. The gradation rate is typically 95-100 percent.

Holtorf, an administrator of three years who has been with ACS for 17, said “it’s just fun to see all the kids back.”

Classes begin Tuesday.