Salem Catholic school triples while others close

By Guest Opinion,

Blanchet Catholic School in Salem, Ore., had 110 students when it opened in 1995; now it has 375 students. But the school is hardly finished with its plans to improve; in fact, it has just finished the first year of a five-year plan to expand its facilities. Rather than attracting new students, the school is attempting to improve the academic experience of the students it already has.

During the 2009-2010 school year, the school studied how to improve, as the administration and board of directors sought to figure out what students and teachers wanted to see changed. Now, the school has a new website and renovated buildings—but it still needs a commons area. In April, Blanchet broke ground for a projected 10,600-square-foot commons building to be the heart of its campus. The building will contain both cafeteria space, kitchens, and locker rooms; students will no longer need to study in the hallways.

The building program comes even as other Catholic schools around the country have been forced to close: out of a total of 6,841 Catholic schools in the U.S., 167 closed or consolidated in 2011, and just 34 schools opened. Oregon has few Catholic schools; 82% of the Catholic schools in the U.S. are east of the Rockies.

Blanchet’s new building will cost $1.7mil, and is scheduled for completion in September. The school hopes to find additional sources of revenue so that it can offer parents a break from steep tuition: Blanchet costs more $5,000 for sixth grade (not including fees), and higher grades are even more expensive.

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