St. Robert’s coping with enrollment rise
by BRIAN NADIG
Saint Robert Bellarmine Parish officials are considering expanding the parish school due to increased enrollment.
The school’s enrollment of 330 students represents a 40 percent increase over the past 6 years during a time when many private schools lost students as families could not afford tuition due to the recession.
"While we are well aware of the current real estate boundaries on our campus, we also are inspired to pursue creative options to provide a viable, long-term plan for our children’s future," parish pastor Father Neil Fackler and school principal Carrie Mijal said in a joint statement. "We are currently working with our school board in providing a long-term strategic course of action that involves expert advice and sound planning."
There is not a lot of space for the school, 6036 W. Eastwood Ave., to expand because over the years much of the parish’s land has been sold and redeveloped into housing and the school has grown in size as well.
When Saint Robert Bellarmine School opened in 1931, it had eight classrooms that were intended to accommodate 140 students, but 200 students enrolled in the school. The school now has 18 classrooms and uses the original church as a gymnasium, which recently was renovated.
Since its inception, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have had a presence at the school, which serves preschool through eighth grade.
Sister Ann Fanella said that that the challenges students academically while making sure that they have fun and become well rounded individuals. "I think our children are happy in school," she said. "I see them coming to school, and I see joy, and I know they are learning, and they feel safe."
Many of the school’s graduates go to selective enrollment public high schools and top private schools, Sister Fanella said.
Parish member Susan Jablonski said that she appreciates how the school uses modern tools to teach students while also stressing the importance of faith and traditional values. "While Saint Robert’s is rooted in tradition, it is relevant to contemporary families," she said.
The school has a partnership with Loyola University’s Science Education Department under which teachers at Saint Robert Bellarmine are learning the latest methods of integrating technology into lessons. The school uses laptop computers, iPads and Smartboards in many of its classrooms and recently updated its wireless network.
Photos provided by St. Roberts Bellarmine Church & School