Frederick-area Catholic schools see enrollment increase

Mary Krietz, who teaches fourth grade at the Visitation Academy, works with Zeca Eze, left, and Mia Venezia on Tuesday in a classroom at the all-girls private Catholic school in downtown Frederick. (Frederick News-Post/Bill Green)

Kelly Beins believed her daughter was ready for a change in schools.

In particular, the Frederick resident was looking for smaller classes as her daughter prepared to enter fourth grade this year.

Frederick’s Visitation Academy met that requirement, along with offering a single-sex education environment.

“There was just a warmth about it that was inviting,” Beins said. “The more we found out, the more that was validated.”

Beins’ daughter was one of 36 new students this year at the all-girl private Catholic school in downtown Frederick.

Over the past two years, Visitation has grown to 145 students — a 33 percent increase from just two years ago.

Other local Catholic schools are seeing — or expecting — higher student numbers as the economy rebounds and more houses are built in the county.

Visitation administrators are not surprised at the recent increase, they say, and attribute it to the school’s Catholic identity, high academic standards and single-sex setting.

“The whole package is what draws parents in,” Visitation Principal Lynne Kirby said.

Although enrollment at Visitation has increased recently, it is not at its highest point since the school was founded in 1846, according to Kirby.

Enrollment was highest when the school had student “boarders,” who lived on campus until 2005, she said.

The school could not board students after the Visitation sisters left, because the campus is no longer staffed day and night, according to executive director Carol Guaccero.

Guaccero believes Visitation will continue to grow as the only all-girl school in a 40-mile radius, she said, because of the opportunities that option offers students.

Visitation can now enroll a maximum of 165 students at its four-acre campus in downtown Frederick, but there is room on campus to expand, Guaccero said.

“We’re open to all possibilities,” she said.

Tuition at Visitation is $7,000 a year for students in grades one through eight and $7,500 for students in pre-kindergarten through kindergarten programs.

Room for growth

Enrollment at St. John Regional Catholic School increased by 22 students this year after the school added a new pre-kindergarten program, according to Principal Karen Smith.

St. John Regional has 584 students enrolled through eighth grade this year, but the highest number of students came during the 2005-06 school year, when the school moved to Opossumtown Pike.

After having more than 600 students that year, Smith said enrollment declined because of the economy and families making job-related moves out of the area.

With a turnaround in the economy and new development planned in the county, Smith said, there is plenty of room for growth in a school building that can fit 850 students.

“Our hope would be that we would be able to add classes,” she said.

Tuition at St. John is up to $7,830 for one student in grades kindergarten through eight.

St. John’s Catholic Prep reported a slightly lower enrollment this year than last, but Diane Favret, the school’s executive director of institutional advancement, said last year’s graduating class was large, which added to the drop.

The 261 students enrolled at St. John’s is less than the 280 to 300 students the school had in the mid- to late 2000s, but Favret said a move to Buckeystown could spur enrollment to climb closer to 400.

Tuition at St. John’s is $13,645 for the 2012-13 school year.

St. John’s Catholic Prep is scheduled to move into the old St. Thomas More Academy property in Buckeystown in January.

“Absolutely, it will allow us to grow,” Favret said of the new location.

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