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Philly Archdiocese Considering Open Enrollment

November 2, 1991

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ The Archdiocese of Philadelphia may adopt an open enrollment plan allowing students to attend any archdiocesan high school in the five-county area.

William J. McCusker, an official in the Office of Catholic Education, confirmed that the Archdiocesan Board of Education is considering abolishing parish high school boundaries.

Archdiocese spokesman Jay Devine said Thursday open enrollment is one of several suggestions being considered by the board.

″It’s still in its glimmer-of-an-idea stage. There’s a lot more work that has to be done,″ he said.

The discussion is tied to the archdiocese’ strong support for the ″school choice″ legislation being considered by the state Legislature. That bill, now in the state House, would give parents vouchers of up to $900 to help send their children to private schools.

″Many parents have said if there’s going to be choice in education, shouldn’t there be choice in the archdiocese,″ said school board member Charles Dougherty. ″That’s really what it’s all about.″

Archdiocesan officials see open enrollment as an effective way to strengthen Catholic schools by making them more attractive to public school students.

But some critics worry that open enrollment will encourage competition and mean the closing of weaker schools.

″The one fear is that it becomes the survival of the fittest,″ said the Rev. Michael Swierzy, principal of Cardinal Dougherty High School.

About 25,800 students attend Catholic high schools in the area, but only Roman Catholic for Boys has open enrollment.

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