Private schools plan expansions

Private schools plan expansions Private schools plan expansions[/caption]

Increased demand for private and parochial schools in Northwest Houston has resulted in capital campaigns at schools in Cy-Fair, Spring and Tomball to raise money for much-needed expansion projects.

Growth in public schools in Cy-Fair has been well-documented, with total enrollment in Cy-Fair ISD expected to increase by 2,000 students annually through 2020. However, public schools are not the only educational institutions seeing the effects of more and more families moving to the suburbs.

The Galveston-Houston Catholic Archdiocese opened Christ the Redeemer Catholic School in Cy-Fair last fall with plans to add a grade level every year through eighth grade.

The main factor dictating where and when to build is parent demand, CTR Principal Betty Sierra said. Education officials with the archdiocese initially considered starting with pre-K and kindergarten classes at the Cy-Fair campus in the 2015-16 school year, but parent demand and support reshaped plans.

"We did a survey of the families in our parish and found support to go through fourth grade," Sierra said. "We opened with a waiting list ahead of when we expected. People didn't want to wait another year."

Reaching capacity

The increased demand is evident at existing schools as well, including Cypress Christian School, which embarked on its Advancing in Excellence capital campaign last spring to raise $3.3 million for a new campus life center and gymnasium. Like many private schools, enrollment growth is managed to limit the strain put on facilities, but the need to expand eventually grew impossible to ignore, Executive Director Stephen Novotny said.

"The scheduling conflicts we currently face with our gymnasium get more difficult every year," he said. "Between gym classes, athletic activities, academic and speech meets, choir performances, fine arts programs, chapels and parent meetings, this is something that will positively affect every student and family in our community."

So far, Cypress Christian has raised $2.8 million of the $3.3 million needed. A construction committee finalized agreements for site survey work, utility and drainage studies and construction services. Officials began work with architects in March to generate drawings, but commencement of construction depends on how soon funds are fully secured. Enthusiastic support from constituents was the basis for the expansion, Novotny said.

"We reached out to a good sample of every segment of our community," Novotny said. "The findings showed the majority agreed with [the Student Life Center's] necessity and value. Not only that, any overwhelming percentage of people we talked to said they would offer financial support."

Similar expansions are being planned at Rosehill Christian School and Concordia Lutheran High School in Tomball as well as at the Frassati Catholic High School in Spring, which was opened by the Galveston-Houston Catholic Archdiocese in 2013.

Although needs at public schools can be gauged sufficiently through enrollment growth, that kind of endeavor can be trickier for private and parochial schools, said Joel Bode, head of school and CEO with Concordia Lutheran. Since private schools have more control over admissions, the numbers themselves do not illustrate how large the demand truly may be, he said.

Need for alternatives

Public schools in Cy-Fair still see the lion's share of student enrollment, according to the demographic firm Population and Survey Analysts. PASA researchers contact private school headmasters in Houston to determine how many of each public school district's potential students are enrolled in private schools. Roughly 2.2 percent of students in Cy-Fair are in private or charter schools. That number is expected to increase slightly to 2.6 percent by 2020.

However, the movement of religious families from the inner loop of Houston to the suburbs is impossible to ignore, Sierra said, and has come with the need to create options for families of various faiths.

"There has been a need for more religious schools in this area for a long time," Sierra said. "When we opened, parents were knocking our doors down to find out how they could get involved. We're growing so quickly we are looking into having to build another building. I don't see this demand going away anytime soon."
By Shawn Arrajj
Shawn Arrajj serves as the editor of the Cy-Fair edition of Community Impact Newspaper where he covers the Cy-Fair and Jersey Village communities. He mainly writes about development, transportation and issues in Harris County.


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