Looking to the future of Catholic school education, the Archdiocese of Denver initiated several studies over the last year with Meitler’s leadership and assistance. With the level of growth in the archdiocese in recent years and shifts in community demographics, new opportunities appeared to be emerging and needed a closer look.
A first step involves developing a comprehensive data study of the archdiocese as seen through the lens of its schools. Community demographics were researched, analyzed, and reported for all twenty-eight counties that comprise the archdiocese and focused on population trends and projections, population projections by age and race/ethnicity, household incomes, public and private school enrollment trends, among other community-based information. The study also addressed Catholic demographics, school enrollment trends, individual school finances, enrollment management, as well as governance and leadership models. This data and information provide the foundation and structure to ask the right questions in look to the future and from which to develop short and long-term strategic growth plans.
Moving to a second part of the study, we focused on the potential expansion of the existing Chesterton Academy of St. John Paul II, the Catholic high school in the city of Windsor. Currently, in operation, school leadership wishes to understand the enrollment potential for the future and how this would impact their efforts to secure new property in order to plan a new facility to meet the enrollment potential. Using the data from the comprehensive study, a market research survey was developed with a School Study Committee of the school which was distributed through the local community as well as through the parishes and Catholic elementary schools in the two counties of the northern section of the archdiocese. A unique approach in this study is the collaboration between the Archdiocese of Denver and the Diocese of Cheyenne in making this high school available with a broader reach to Catholics in both areas. Results were favorable with interest expressed by families about enrolling and a preferred site. Chesterton Academy of St. John Paul II now moves on in addressing financial and facility planning next steps.
In parallel with the Chesterton Academy study, we conducted the feasibility study for a new Catholic high school in the city of Denver which would include an existing Chesterton Academy. Building on the data previously analyzed and a market research survey among families among the Catholic schools and parishes in the city and local suburban areas, the results showed an interest on the part of families for a smaller high school in the city with a classical approach to learning. A caveat in considering next steps for this potential high school is planning in collaboration with the existing high school in proximity, Bishop Machebeuf Catholic High School which also has the classical Catholic curriculum in place. New possibilities in terms of organization and structure are being considered.
Two additional studies are to be conducted in the fall of 2021 in considering the need and level of interest in a possible new high school and new elementary school in the southern region of the archdiocese. Interestingly, the proposed high school would be studied in collaboration with the Diocese of Colorado Springs.
The most interesting experience among all of these studies is that for the first time in our new school planning work, different dioceses are collaborating in studying new school potential that could serve communities that are in proximity. This collaboration in terms of planning the future of Catholic education opens new possibilities in terms of new models to consider for schools.