QUINCY -- Quincy Catholic Elementary Schools saw enrollment decline for the first time in six years.
The four schools -- Blessed Sacrament, St. Dominic, St. Francis and St. Peter -- reported a K-8 enrollment this year of 1,028, down 29 students, or 2 percent, from the 2016-17 year. Including pre-kindergarten enrollment, the total is 1,212, down 32 students from last year.
Paul Rittof, director of marketing and development for QCES and executive director of the QCES Foundation, said one possible cause ties to the Illinois economy.
"Interestingly, the largest segment of students who did not return to one of our four Catholic elementary schools (28 of the 59 K-8 students) did not return because one or both of their parents found new employment outside of Quincy and Adams County, and some families moved to another state, outside the Tri-State region," Rittof said.
"With the business and economic climate in Illinois as it is, we will, unfortunately, probably continue to experience a higher than usual number of families leaving Quincy for greener employment pastures elsewhere."
But Rittof was quick to point out a positive sign in the enrollment numbers -- 72 students who are new to QCES.
QCES defines new students as those who have not previously attended one of the four schools and have not had a sibling attend one of the schools. "Of those 72 new students, only eight are from families who moved to Quincy this summer," Rittof said.
St. Dominic, St. Francis and St. Peter all saw enrollment fall, with St. Peter seeing the largest drop of 19 K-8 students. Blessed Sacrament saw its enrollment grow by nine students over last year, its second straight year of the largest growth among the schools.
Blessed Sacrament Principal Christie Dickens said the school is humbled and blessed to be serving additional students.
"Our enrollment is strictly influenced by our parents," Dickens said. "They are our biggest advocates and promoters of or school, and they contribute greatly to the sense of community that exists in the school and is also part of our church. Their outreach of outstretched arms is just so welcoming."
Their belief and enthusiasm influences other families to look at Catholic elementary education, Dickens said, and so does the school staff which is committed to the mission of helping children achieve to their greatest capacity academically, socially and in their faith.
"That's true of all the Catholic schools and any faith-based (schools)," she said. "To start our day every day together in prayer, to hear the scripture and liturgy every morning, it's the community. I attribute that all to our families and our staff who are committed to that mission."