Private schools discuss affects of COVID-19 pandemic

  • St. Edward athletic director P.J. White, left, is hoping the Catholic school in Elgin keeps similar enrollment numbers this fall despite the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

    St. Edward athletic director P.J. White, left, is hoping the Catholic school in Elgin keeps similar enrollment numbers this fall despite the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Daily Herald file photo

Updated 6/17/2020 1:15 PM

While there's still uncertainty for high school sports in the 2020-21 school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economic fallout could also cause issues for private schools.

Many won't know for sure until August and seeing actual enrollment numbers.


Elgin St. Edward athletic director P.J. White said his school is prepared to work with any families who might be in a difficult position because of the pandemic.

"Obviously, some families have lost their jobs and will be financially strapped," White said. "For these families, our school is prepared to help as much as possible."

White said he is optimistic enrollment numbers will be good.

"Things look strong for us, but the longer this goes on, one never knows, we will just have to wait and see," White said. "We firmly believe our school has and will always be a great educational institution due to its strong Catholic education process and its prolific college preparatory programs."

Like Elgin, Aurora also has multiple private schools. Rosary athletic director John Rutter and Dan Beebe at Aurora Christian are both hopeful for similar enrollment numbers this coming year.

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"Rosary seems to be moving along just fine," Rutter said. "We anticipate a good number of incoming freshmen this fall."

"It doesn't look like it is impacting us at all," Beebe said. "Will know more when we get closer to school starting though."

St. Francis in Wheaton sponsored a day of giving along with a virtual benefit concert in May to support its COVID-19 tuition assistance fund.

They raised over $60,000.

"We are very fortunate that our numbers seem to be sustaining for the upcoming year," said Maureen Isphording, director of admissions and communications at St. Francis. "The fund was established to aid families who are experiencing economic hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic."

St. Viator athletic director Jason Kuffel said most of their eighth grade families were just finishing up school last week.

He's in a wait and see mode to see if there's an impact at the Arlington Heights school.


"It is still too early to tell," Kuffel said. "Families are still trying to get a sense of what has occurred and see what is to come. Parents have been extremely busy with e-learning, so I believe their next step will be looking at their next steps for high school in the coming weeks.

"St. Viator is working extremely hard to prepare for all scenarios in the fall that will provide our students with the opportunity for outstanding college prep learning, no matter what phase we are in. We pride ourselves on differentiated learning through the educational classroom that provides the best learning environment for all individual needs."

White and Kuffel pointed to advantages their schools can offer.

"With our enrollment size, we may be able to do things with social distancing regulations that many schools with much larger populations may not be able to accommodate," White said. "I think the biggest question is: will we be able to safely get our students back in school in late August or early September?

"No matter what, we feel that the educational process for all of our young men and women is an important part of their mental, physical, social, and spiritual development. I guess for now, we will all just have to wait and see what happens with this pandemic. Hopefully we will continue to progress and get to phase 5 by the end of summer."

Carmel Catholic school in Mundelein is one of the largest private schools.

Athletic director Mark Pos said at their last administrative meeting, the indication was their enrollment will not take a hit.

"We are expecting the same number of students pre-COVID," Pos said. "We received strong positive feedback on how e-learning was done here at Carmel, so I think our parents would be comfortable if we had to start that way in the fall. The only change could be a later arrival date of our new and returning international students, but that was still up in the air on whether they would be here on time or a little later."

Pos also reports positive news from most of his East Suburban Catholic Conference colleagues from their last ADs meeting a couple weeks ago.

"It appeared that most everyone expected their numbers to be the same or very close to the same," Pos said.

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