Pre-k enrollment at St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy
by Andrew Shilling
Mar 05, 2014 | 4401 views | 0 0 comments | 73 73 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Principal William Ferguson
Principal William Ferguson
Students at St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy
Students at St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy
Like many private schools, St. Elizabeth Catholic Academy in Ozone Park has struggled with enrollment numbers.

Just a few years ago the school had just 206 students, but with hard work in expanding the prekindergarten program, the school now has 423 students from pre-K to eighth grade with 108 in the prekindergarten program alone.

Principal William Ferguson said if it weren’t for the new program, the school would not be what it is today.

“When I became principal I booked the first school in the Diocese to put in universal prekindergarten,” Ferguson said. “Today, I have one of the largest.”

Ferguson added the more important part about the program at his school in particular is the high turnover rate.

Now with a thriving state-funded prekindergarten program, the school has found success in serving their students throughout the school during their time in early education.

“You can get kids sometimes in the 7th or 8th grade, but the bottom feeder, I had nothing, so I put in the universal prekindergarten and we went up,” he said. “Now I have two kindergarten classes.”

With two full-day sessions and four half-day sessions, Ferguson said parents often enroll their children in more than one of the multiple prekindergarten sessions at the school.

Ferguson noted that if the de Blasio administration were to pass a universal prekindergarten initiative citywide, “It would open an opportunity for more kids to stay in the program.”

“It also gets people who would have never come into a Catholic school environment to come in,” he said.

Today, the school’s board is looking for more space and has considered converting basement space, currently occupied by two bowling alleys, into two new classrooms.

“It hasn’t been used for 25 years,” Ferguson said.

Today, Ferguson said the school is looking into adding a new basketball program and outsourcing with Soccer All Stars to run athletic leagues out of the school with space at P.S. 60.

“I’d like to think that a lot of it has to do with the Catholic identity,” he said of the school’s success.

While tuition at St. Elizabeth’s is $4,100 for Catholics and $4,600 for non-Catholics, parents still say the education is worth the cost.

Both of Yvette Ortega’s children have been in the school since prekindergarten. Today, her daughter is still attending the school while her son is a graduating senior at Christ the King High School in Middle Village.

“I was not impressed when I was talking to neighbors about public schools,” Ortega said, recalling when she was first looking into sending her son to elementary school. “I also wanted a smaller setting, and as a devout Catholic, I wanted to give them a Catholic education.”

Ortega, the director of the school’s universal prekindergarten program, did say that she was worried about the financial constraints and sending a child to a school with such a high tuition.

“We moved to Woodhaven where our taxes were low, and I was able to send them to Catholic school,” she said. “It was tough but they both graduated.”

Estela Jordan lives just two blocks from the school and has a first grader and fifth grade student currently enrolled.

“I heard that this school had a good program,” Jordan said. “When my son entered kindergarten, he started reading big words that I never expected.”

Jordan grew up in the Catholic education system and said she wouldn’t have wanted to enroll her children in any other school.

“They are able to teach the children the good things and the bad things in a Christian way,” she said. “The school has excellent teachers, and when it comes to teaching, they’re very strict and they treat the kids like they’re their own children.”

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