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Going private?

Submitted by on 1, March 27, 2008 – 6:41 amNo Comment

Sounds like private school applications are up this year, possibly due in part to the uncertainty around the public schools.

Most of the additional applications at Saint Philip Neri School are due to the impending closure of Saint Barnabas School, the school’s Truus French says. But French says that a handful have come from folks whose kids would ordinarily vie for a coveted spot at Edison School, “which is unusual.” Registration is due April 1.

Across town at St. Joseph Elementary School, applications are also up, Principal Monica O’Callaghan confirms, though it’s not clear by how many. “It is in part due to the closure of St. Barnabas, but also families who are anxious about cuts in the public schools,” O’Callaghan says. The school held testing a few weeks ago but is still accepting applications, she says. O’Callaghan didn’t respond when we asked her how many more applications they’re getting (though I guess that’s what happens when you contact the head of a Catholic school on Good Friday).

Private school enrollment in Alameda was at its lowest level in four years last school year, according to state data you can piece together from here. Some of the city’s religious schools were particularly hard hit, the data show. St. Joseph Elementary had 52 fewer students from 2003 to 2006, down from 307 in 2003-04 to 255 in 2006-07, the state data show; and St. Joseph Notre Dame High School had 66 fewer, falling from 520 to 454. Enrollment at Philip Neri declined by about a dozen or so students between 2003-04 and 2006-07, the data show. Public schools here also faced declining enrollment for the first three years of that period, though, swinging back upward in the last year.

The school district doesn’t seem fazed by this turn of events (a goodly chunk of Alameda’s students attend private school already, according to the data), though I guess they have a few other things on their mind. “We have an amazing community stepping up to support our schools right now. When I look at the brilliance, passion, and commitment of our parents, students, and friends, I believe we can win the fight to protect our schools from the Governor’s budget, not just for Alameda but for all of California,” spokeswoman Donna Fletcher says.

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