On July, 19, 2019, Eric Davis, Executive Director for the Lafayette Catholic School System (LCSS) welcomed faculty, staff, parents, alumni, supporters, friends and the media with great honor and enthusiasm to announce the construction of the new St. Francis Early Learning Academy. The realization that there was a need in Greater Lafayette to improve and expand access to "cradle to college and career" education opportunities for all youth in the community became obvious. Only 36% of children in Tippecanoe County were enrolled in a high quality program and in 2018 there were 3,993 children ages 3-5 who were not. Research clearly demonstrated that the benefits of being in a high quality program significantly outweighed the costs. High quality programs generate an anticipated benefit of $4 for every $1 invested. Through 165 years of service to education in the community, the LCSS and six supporting parishes felt it was morally imperative to expand these services to more families who desire a high-quality pre-K experience with a path to a high-performing elementary, junior-high and high school.
What would happen between the groundbreaking and the start of school, no one could have predicted. The opening of St. Francis Early Learning Academy in the midst of a pandemic was not the ideal situation. Parents could not tour the new facility, sit down with their children's teachers or meet the new director. In addition, there was limited information about the impact of COVID on everyone and parents were faced with the dilemma of whether to send their kids to preschool or not this year. The head winds to expand this opportunity were unknown and completely unexpected.
Fast forward to today, it is with the same excitement and honor on that hot summer day in July 2019, to report that St. Francis Early Learning Academy is growing faster than expected. Enrollment for the 2020-21 school year was 7% beyond initial estimates and families continued to enroll throughout the school year as they became more comfortable with the LCSS response to COVID. Applications for next year are already being processed and enrollment is expected to increase by 25% with double the number of students in the full-day program. Our collective community has enabled us to expand on the tremendous things happening in our schools and continue to grow high-quality programs for students of all ages. We are so grateful for everyone's incredible response and for the momentum that has been created through Vision 2030.
For more information on the Lafayette Catholic School System or any of our schools, please visit www.lcss.org.