LONDON GROVE - Assumption BVM School has increased enrollment by 30 percent this year, and part of that jump is from students who were formerly at St. Patrick School in Kennett Square.
St. Pat's was closed at the end of the last school year under orders from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, leaving parents to find a new place for their children. Another local parochial school, St. Cornelius in Chadds Ford, was slated for closure, but after a reversal in plans it will remain open.
Assumption BVM Principal Danielle White said at least 15 more students have been added from the Kennett Square area, but there are increases from other areas as well, raising the enrollment from 185 last year to 263 this coming year. Given that most of the students come from West Grove, Avondale, Lincoln University, Landenberg and Kennett Square, it is difficult to give an exact percentage of who landed at BVM - a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school - as a result of the closure of St. Pat's, White said.
But the addition of students from Kennett Square has jumped its percentage of the school population from 2 to 3 percent last year to 10 percent this year.
She said the word of closures came down from the archdiocese last January, just at the time when parents were ready to re-enroll their students for the following year. That meant it was time for them to decide whether they would transfer their sons and daughters to public school, a secular private school or another Catholic school such as Assumption. At that point, the number of families inquiring about Assumption jumped from 44 in for the 2011-12 school year to 64 for the 2012-13 school year.
One factor that parents in Kennett Square had to consider was the free busing provided by the Kennett and Avon Grove school districts. Kennett buses its district's students to private and parochial schools as far away as St. Cornelius and Assumption but not to Sacred Heart in Oxford. The Avon Grove School District buses to Sacred Heart and Assumption but not to St. Cornelius.
Assumption BVM School is on State Road across from Avon Grove High School.
Regardless of how the jump in enrollment came about, Assumption nonetheless undertook plans to expand, and this past summer the school added four classrooms in back of the main building.
The new area will accommodate sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders as well as a virtual classroom for math honors, Spanish and virtual field trips. The expansion also enabled the conversion of another classroom to a fine arts room, which the school wanted but did not have before.
White said she sees a major growth in maturity when students are about to enter sixth grade, and giving them their own area will give those students a new sense of pride in being middle-schoolers.
The new rooms, along with a parish-sponsored football team, have increased the enrollment of students in those grades.
White said she feels blessed to have more students continuing through the middle school years.
'We lose people in middle school, sometimes because the parents feel the kids have had their sacraments by that time and sometimes for financial reasons. But many eighth-grade parents are seeing the value in Catholic education. We are an extension of what they are teaching at home,' she said.
Development Director Sandra Gosline said parents send their children to Assumption and other Catholic schools because of the family atmosphere, safety, stability and the Catholic school reputation and concern for the individual.
Like White, she said she is thrilled with the building expansion.
The school charges $3,350 per year in tuition for students in the Assumption BVM Church parish and $4,350 for others. But the parish subsidizes each student for $1,000, White said.