QUINCY -- Quincy Notre Dame enrollment declined for a second straight year.
Enrollment figures announced Thursday show QND started last year with a total of 417 students and currently has 404 students, a 3 percent decline.
The numbers came as no surprise to the school based on data and projections as part of a long-range strategic planning process started in the 2015-16 school year.
Those projections called for an enrollment of 400 for the 2017-18 year, and "we expected a freshman class of 95 students but welcomed 102 when school began," Principal Mark McDowell said. "Always we'd like to see there be quality growth, but at this particular time, we know not only this school year but perhaps the next two school years we could be in a similar situation to what we are now. Then we believe it should rebound somewhat and those numbers should start trending upward."
The schools' 2016-17 enrollment also dipped 3 percent, but the smaller numbers in grades 9 through 12 followed several years of growth.
Overall enrollment had seen a 6 percent increase over four years at the school -- the only Catholic high school in the immediate area -- and its 2015-16 enrollment was the highest since the 2008-09 academic year with 435 students.
McDowell noted the school's "conversion rate," or the percent of eighth-graders in Quincy Catholic elementary schools who choose to attend QND, remains high at 87 percent.
"Obviously we picked up some students from a variety of other places as well to get the freshman enrollment to 102, but that 87 percent does speak to the heart of the quality system and relationship we have between our feeder schools and QND," McDowell said.
McDowell said students and families continue to be drawn to QND because of the structure it provides, the atmosphere that's conducive to learning and the spiritual component.
"I think people look at us and understand that, all things considered, we provide a tremendous education and opportunity for our students and families and for the community in general," McDowell said.
"One of the most important things is our ability to get to know our students on a level our families have come to expect, whether it's good things taking place or things that may have us concerned," he said. "I trust in our ability to pick up on these things, engage these students and families, and when you have quality rapport, you can tackle many things because of your ability to foster a relationship that already exists."