Niagara Gazette — Between Niagara Falls and Lewiston there are five Catholic schools, Niagara Catholic, the Catholic Academy of Niagara Falls, Sacred Heart Villa, Stella Niagara and St. Peter’s. While they are not all governed under the diocese, area school leaders say they are dealing with the challenge of enrollment decline.
“Mount Carmel and Prince of Peace merged four years ago,” explained Jeannine Fortunate, principal of the Catholic Academy of Niagara Falls. “This is our fifth year and things have been steady, but we did see a decline. With the average family size there just aren’t the children to fill the schools.”
However, Sister Margaret Sullivan, principal of Stella Niagara Education Park, says that her school’s programs are alive and well and haven’t been too impacted by population declines.
“While we’re not the numbers we were in the ‘80s, we have maintained a healthy population,” she said. “We have an active board and parents who work hard at keeping a full program.”
Ron Buggs, principal of Niagara Catholic Junior/Senior High School, which is not a diocesan school, says his schools are improving their curriculum by adding more academic options for their students. Classes in Chinese, musical theater, entrepreneurship and marketing are among those offered to students.
“Next year we’re going to have the Hospitality and Tourism Academy,” he said. “Students who go through that program will enter college as first semester sophomores if they choose to follow the program to Niagara University.”
One goal of the academy is to create an interest in jobs that would be relevant to an area with as high a tourism rate as Niagara Falls, he said.
It’s the similar message from local Catholic school leaders — they are doing what they can to engage their students and provide a full experience.
“I hope our supporters stick with us,” said Cimino. “Things are happening and there are going to be some exciting changes.”