Boston-area Catholic schools, hit by shrinking enrollment, find a surging demand for classes for 3- and 4-year-olds

Lisa Wangsness

Enrollment in local Catholic preschool classes this year is up nearly 14 percent over last year and 22 percent over five years ago, as elementary schools in the Boston Archdiocese have added programs for 3- and 4-year-olds and freestanding Catholic preschools have sprung up in response to surging demand.
Principals and administrators say the preschools are attracting working parents, including many non-Catholics, by providing high-quality programs for a lower price than full-time day care, which can easily run more than $10,000 a year.
“For working parents, there is going to be a cost, regardless of whether it’s an academic program or a child-care program,” said Russ W. Wilson, regional director of Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy, which offers prekindergarten through eighth grade at multiple campuses in Dorchester and Mattapan. “So parents are doing some simple math and realizing that, for an affordable price, they are able to send their child to . . . a full day of academics, socialization, computer skills.”