If you are considering sending your child to Catholic school but your family is not Catholic, there are a few important things to consider when narrowing down your options to a particular school. After you've made your decision, you'll need to help your child transition from a public school to a private school that has a focus on Catholicism. Here's what you need to know about selecting a Catholic school and what your child should understand before he or she attends.
What Percentage of Students Are Non-Catholic?
According to the National Catholic Educational Association, 16.9% of students who attended Catholic schools in the academic year of 2014-2015 were non-Catholics. Of course, enrollment numbers are likely different from one school to the next. If you'd like your child to attend a Catholic school that has a high(er) percentage of non-Catholic students, go ahead and call around to the Catholic schools in your area and ask.
The last thing you want is for your child to feel out of place and/or left out, which is what could happen if he or she is one of very few non-Catholics in the school. In public school this was never a concern, especially not for your child, because the curriculum didn't focus on any one particular religion and, therefore, there wasn't any one population of students that was singled out due to religion.
The larger the percentage of non-Catholics, the more likely your child won't feel left out when Catholic children are attending and/or participating in Catholic-specific requirements. For example, Catholic students may have an additional Catechism assignment that non-Catholic students may not be required to do.
More than likely, your child will be concerned about if they will fit in or be the oddball. Explain the percentage to them in terms they will understand. For example, if you find a school that has 15% non-Catholics, you can say that 3 out of 20 children will be like them.
Are the Non-Catholic Students Ever Segregated?
Another question to ask the various schools to help you narrow down your decision is if the non-Catholic students are ever segregated from the Catholic students and for what reasons. While segregation has been a highly contested part of society for decades, this is one time when segregation can be appropriate and necessary.
Of course, since you are looking at Catholic schools, there will be classes that will teach Catholicism and the children may be required to attend Mass. If non-Catholic children are not segregated from the rest of the children, then the non-Catholic children may be forced into doing something that might be against their religious beliefs, whatever they may be.
For this reason, Catholic schools do segregate non-Catholic students in some manner when it's time for the Catholic student body to partake in their religious activities, such as communion and confession. Non-Catholic children may be asked to sit in a different section during these times or they may be permitted to receive a blessing instead of taking communion.
Ask the various schools what they require their non-Catholic students to do when these types of activities are taking place. Allow your child to have input as to what they may feel more comfortable with, especially if they are middle-school aged or older. After all, your child will be attending the school on a daily basis and, therefore, should be comfortable.
Some schools, particularly secondary schools, may have special clubs and/or programs for their non-Catholic students. That way, the non-Catholic students can feel like they belong to a part of the student body even though they are actually a minority in the school.
For more information on private Catholic schools, see a site like http://www.cadets.com.