Many families move to Westchester County for the excellent public school system. Yet, many also decide that private religious school education is the best fit for their family. Faith-based schools have a unique curriculum and environment that can be beneficial to all students regardless of their faith. We’ve outlined several aspects of a Westchester Catholic school education as a way for you to understand what this education option has to offer.
History of Catholic schools in New York
In 1800, St. Peter’s Parish founded a school for 100 students on Barclay Street in Lower Manhattan, six years before the first public school in New York opened. The next Catholic school to open in Manhattan was St. Patrick’s (Old) Cathedral School in 1817 on Mott Street.
By 1870, more than 22,000 kids were enrolled in Catholic schools. The Department of Education of the Archdiocese of New York continues to develop the Catholic system in New York. Over the years, many notable people have graduated from New York’s Catholic schools, including Al Smith, the first Catholic to run for president, and Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Judge on the Supreme Court.
The Catholic school experience
Catholic schools foster an inclusive and welcoming environment for kids of all backgrounds. The Catholic faith is very much a part of the educational experience. Gospel ideas guide the structure and content of lessons, and students might participate in daily prayer and the regular celebration of Mass. As character formation and personal spirituality are integral aspects of Catholic teachings, the schools put forth a value-centered curriculum that not only focuses on academics, but also fosters social, emotional, and spiritual growth.
While the Catholic religion is practiced and taught, it is also the model for shaping the goals and environment of Catholic schools. There is a real emphasis on the development of the whole person, not just a student. In Catholicism, this means an encounter with the Spirit, the message, and the teachings of Jesus Christ. Teachers focus on molding students intellectually, socially, and morally.
Structure of Catholic schools
Catholic schools start as young as pre-K and continue through high school. Not all Westchester Catholic schools offer pre-K programs, so be sure to check if your local option has the program you’re looking for. Elementary schools accommodate students through eighth grade, so there are no designated middle schools. High schools enroll students from ninth to 12th grade.
Curriculum and academics
Technology plays a big part in education in all Catholic schools. With some schools utilizing Chromebooks, Google Classroom, SMART Boards, and MAP, students get to engage with technology from a young age. The pre-K programs use center-based learning, which encourages little ones to make their own choices about selecting activities. The goal is to instill self-motivation, independent thinking, and social skills. Many kindergarten programs feature the new Dash and Dot pilot, which introduces students to robotics. There’s an emphasis on community service for kindergarteners, in which little ones get to participate in service projects and learn to care for others and those in need.
The elementary school curriculum follows the National Common Core Learning Standards. The English Language Arts explore language and writing while including discussions on Catholic values and ethics when reading religious and secular literature. Schools offer music theory and performance at every grade level, as sacred music is a central part of the Catholic Church. They also teach that science and religion are not separate spheres; kids can seek out scientific knowledge and still be devoted to their faith. In the transition to high school, students can choose either co-educational or single-sex education.
Admission and tuition for Catholic schools
Catholic schools welcome children of all faiths, so you do not have to be Catholic to apply! The first step to apply is to visit a school and take a tour. Once you’re ready to apply, fill out the online application, and call the school to schedule an interview. Next, consider whether you want to apply for financial assistance or scholarship awards. Admission to high schools requires the Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools, which eighth-graders take in November. Many elementary schools allow you to enroll your kids at any time, provided there is space in the class.
If you’re looking for a faith-based education that emphasizes morals and values, boasts strong academics, and creates an inclusive atmosphere, then consider enrolling your child in a Westchester Catholic school for the upcoming school year.
For more information visit the website, Catholic Schools in the New York Archdiocese of New York, catholicschoolsny.org.
Mia Salas is a freelance writer who writes on education and parenting topics.