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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Catholic schools across the metro are reporting a boost in interest amid the pandemic, reversing a decade-long decline.

By the numbers: Overall enrollment is up 1,000 students from the 2019-2020 school year, per the Catholic Schools Center of Excellence (CSCOE), an Edina-based nonprofit representing 79 local PreK-8 Catholic schools.

  • Kindergarten registration for next fall is already more than triple what it was at this time last year, CSCOE president Brian Ragatz told us.

Driving the trend: Most parochial schools returned to in-person instruction last fall — well ahead of local public schools, which only began allowing students to come back to classrooms in the last month.

  • Inquiring parents were looking for certainty and a break from distance learning, Ragatz said.

Why it matters: The boost is a welcome change for the metro's Catholic schools, which were previously losing a combined 1,000 students a year.

The big picture: Private schools across the country have remained fully operational at much higher rates than public systems, and are reporting an increase in applications as a result, as Axios' Erica Pandey has reported.

  • Yes, but: The broader exodus from public schools could also have big consequences for school funding, which is based on a per-pupil formula, and lead to learning gaps along socioeconomic lines, as Pandey noted.

This story first appeared in the Axios Twin Cities newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

Go deeper

White House sets target for Biden's plan to reopen schools

Photo: Pete Marovich/The New York Times/Bloomberg via Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing Tuesday that President Biden's goal to reopen most schools means reopening over 50% of schools for "some teaching" in person "at least one day a week." But they wouldn't necessarily fully reopen.

Why it matters: The White House's shift in language suggests Biden's original timeline was not realistic, as infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci noted earlier this month.

Feb 9, 2021 - Podcasts

Teachers union president Randi Weingarten on reopening schools

Three-quarters of America’s K-12 public schools are either closed or partially closed right now. Even if the White House manages to open up the vaccine bottlenecks and get a new economic stimulus passed with money for in-school COVID-19 testing and HVAC updates, ultimately, schools being open or closed comes down to negotiations between local school departments and their teachers unions.

Axios Re:Cap digs into those negotiations, what will happen this semester once teachers have vaccination access and what next fall could look like with American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten.

Feb 9, 2021 - Podcasts

The digital gap in remote learning

We’re a year into virtual schools — but the digital divide when it comes to our students still hasn’t been fixed. Consider this: 12 million students in this country don’t have internet access or the proper devices needed to do school online.

As some schools start to reopen for in-person classes, there's a danger that the digital divide will again be ignored.

  • Plus, former President Trump’s second impeachment trial begins.
  • And, how a showdown over real estate commission could upend the industry.

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