FALL RIVER — Since 1974, Celebrate Catholic Schools Week has meant a week at the end of January full of fun activities, inter-school competitions, and dress down days culminating with a weekly school Mass.

As with most things this year, Celebrate Catholic Schools Week will have a very different meaning for the 20 Catholic schools of the Diocese of Fall River as they celebrate what makes their schools unique during the week of January 31 – February 6, 2021.  Every day of the week will have a new theme – from celebrating with the parish, to celebrating students and teachers, to celebrating our nation.

While the 2020-21 school year will be remembered as the year of masks, social distancing and hand sanitizer, it will also be recalled as the year of challenges for education in general.  Catholic schools have much to celebrate as they often have been a haven of stability for the many families and students benefiting from the in-person Catholic education since the end of August.

Moreover, even during the pandemic, the Diocese of Fall River Catholic schools continue to live out the Catholic faith by integrating the teachings of Jesus Christ into all that is done at the schools every day.  Many other educational forums do not have the benefit of someone sitting with each child and helping them learn to pray – which is one of the gifts of Catholic education that has been experienced by so many new families who have recently joined the Catholic school community.

“I never knew it was like this and feel so blessed that my children are now at a Catholic school,” shared Christine Matias, parent of a kindergarten student at St. James St. John School in New Bedford.  “While my children were getting a good education at their previous school, the pandemic has made us rethink what is truly important.  Difficult times call for faith, community and appreciation of ‘normalcy’ and we could not be happier that our children are getting these every day at St. James St. John school.”

“Celebrate Catholic School Week is a wonderful opportunity for all families to learn more about Catholic education and why it has been a valued education for decades,” said Daniel S. Roy, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Fall River. “As families make educational decisions for the Fall of 2021, we encourage all families to consider investing in a Catholic education for the formation of the whole child – mind, body and soul.”

Affordability is the main worry for many new families as they engage in learning more about the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Fall River.

“The cost of tuition is of great concern to many families,” said Christina Duggan, Vice President of Operations for the Catholic Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts.  “Each of our elementary schools encourages families to apply to the Foundation to Advance Catholic Education (FACE) which helps reduce the cost of tuition by providing scholarships. Almost 950 students received a needs-based award this year, which in many cases can reduce tuition by 30-50%; and for many schools, this can result in a monthly tuition payment of $300 or less. Awards are determined by a family’s financial circumstances at the time of application. FACE scholarships help reduce the tuition cost and make a Catholic school education more attainable and, in the end, families realize that a Catholic education is well worth the investment. Families are encouraged to apply early for the best chance of receiving an award as funds are limited.”

Other concerns that have been expressed by interested families are special education services for their child.  The Diocese of Fall River has made great improvements in special education by partnering with the S.E.A.L. Foundation, which oversees the special education professionals in each partnering school, as well as providing special education assistance to students who have a learning difference to ensure supportive accommodations are provided.  In addition to the very high quality special education services, the smaller class sizes of Catholic schools lend themselves to a more personalized education focusing on each student’s specific needs.

While Catholic schools have weathered many challenges over the past few decades, there is no doubt that Catholic schools are still a valued piece of this country’s educational landscape. Whether a family’s interest in Catholic education is due to the rigorous academics, or for the formation of the whole child, Catholic schools continue to provide children and families a faith-filled community where the values and teachings of Jesus Christ are integrated into every aspect of a child’s development.

For more information about Celebrate Catholic Schools Week, please go to www.catholicschoolsalliance.org/celebrate-catholic-schools.

For more information about scholarships from the Foundation to Advance Catholic Education, please go to www.FACE-dfr.org.

About the Catholic Schools Alliance

The Catholic Schools Alliance comprises administrators, teachers, staff, parents and clergy joined in partnership to educate the children of the Diocese of Fall River in Catholic faith and values. Our schools have a demanding educational culture that helps students from across the academic spectrum reach their God-given potential. With an emphasis on service and respect for the dignity of every person, we prepare students to meet the challenges of today’s diverse world and become meaningful contributors to society.

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