Two parochial students in Columbus this fall have seen their highest levels of enrollment over the past five years.

The biggest gain among the five largest private schools in Columbus has come at St. Peter’s Lutheran School, which grew 8.9 percent in the past year, an all-time enrollment record.

Enrollment is also up at St. Bartholomew Catholic School, which has experienced five straight years of gains — including a 2.4 percent increase this fall.

But while some private schools are adding students, others are adding new courses, new technology and new staff.

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St. Peter’s Lutheran

St. Peter’s Lutheran School, the largest private school in Bartholomew County, is showing a gain of 39 students this year — with a total enrollment of 479 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, principal Scott Schumacher said. This year’s growth continues a trend that’s been occuring the past two years, he said.

Gains in enrollment came primarily in kindergarten, first grade and second grade, Schumache said.

“With that growth has come greater diversity, which has been really good for our school,” he said.

St. Peter’s offers a continued focus on Christian engagement at the school, small class sizes and academic coaches providing assistance to students, Schumacher said in explaining the school’s appeal.

St. Peter’s, which was awarded exemplary recognition through the National Lutheran School Accreditation in 2014, was nominated to receive that recognition again this year, according to the school’s website.

The school’s goals include continuing to connect families with the gospel, increasing diversity among its students and increasing retention and fostering growth.

Spiritual growth and academic growth are both important to the school’s leaders, Schumacher said.

“We are really fortunate and in a great position,” Schumacher said. “Our hope is that we have continued growth.”

Parent Lindsey Rust, whose daughter Lauren is starting kindergarten this year, said it made sense to her and her husband Benjamin to send their child to St. Peter’s for school since they already attend church there.

The church is also where the couple got married, Rust said.

Rust added that St. Peter’s will allow her daughter to follow her faith without anyone judging her.

“It’s a great place to be,” Rust said. “The staff (works) very hard and is willing to go the extra mile.”

St. Bartholomew Catholic

While not a record, St. Bartholomew Catholic School’s 384-student enrollment marks the fifth straight year of increases, principal Helen Heckman said. It has nine students more than a year ago.

St. Bartholomew was designated as a four-star school for the third consecutive year from the Indiana Department of Education earlier this year, the only school in Bartholomew County to receive that distinction.

“People are recognizing that we offer outstanding academics,” Heckman said.

Heckman pointed to the school’s smaller learning environment, dedicated teachers and word of mouth among families as being key factors leading to its success and continued growth.

“They like the idea of a family atmosphere,” she said of families who choose to send their children to St. Bartholomew.

Three new teachers have been hired this year, two of them from local public school districts.

Second-grade teacher Jody Weichman came from Clifty Creek Elementary School in Columbus. Jennifer Veach, who is teaching language arts at the middle school level at St. Bartholomew, previously taught at Hauser Junior/Senior High School in Hope.

Haley Daeger, a new first-grade treacher, previously taught in Louisville.

Weichman, a parishioner at St. Bartholomew Catholic Church with her husband Jacob, said she thinks the school’s focus on faith and education will help students become well-rounded individuals. She plans to have her 1-year-old son Owen attend the school when he gets older because of the strong faith-based education St. Bartholomew provides.

“I want them to come to school with a mindset that they can achieve anything,” Weichman of her students.

Teachers this year will be able to utilize a greenhouse — formally known as the Outdoor Learning Lab — that was initiated by Bridget Steele, a St. Bartholomew middle school science teacher. Funding was provided through a grant from the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, along with support from community members and businesses.

Heckman said teachers in every grade level will be able to set up a lesson plan allowing them to use the outdoor lab, tied to the school’s science curriculum.

Technology also received a boost this year at St. Bartholomew.

Nearly 100 Chromebooks will be in the hands of third- and fourth-grade students this school year, Heckman said. The school purchased 94 Chromebooks for students as it looks to expand its 1:1 initiative, she said.

The Chromebooks will be beneficial in that the school has adopted new math books for kindergarten through fifth-grade students that have a technology component to them, Heckman said.

The devices will be taken home by students to complete homework and other class assignments.

St. Bartholomew had previously provided Chromebooks to students in grades 5 to 8, while first- and second-grade students use Apple iPads in their classrooms, Heckman said. In addition, two students share an iPads at the kindergarten level.

Heckman said the cloud-based computers have been an asset for students.

“Being able to share and collaborate documents has been huge,” she said.

St. Bartholomew has also added eight smart boards in its classrooms as part of technology being integrated this school year, allowing teachers to share information with their students.

Columbus resident Stefan Campbell said he and his wife Charity, a teacher at St. Bartholomew, chose to send their two children to the school not only because it ties in faith and education, but also since it is a top-rated school. The Campbells’ 5-year-old daughter Makenna attends kindergarten, while her 8-year-old sister Ella is in third grade.

“I think it’s important they learn about faith,” Campbell said.

Martha Erickson, whose granddaughter Penelope Erickson attends fourth grade, said the school is family oriented and does a good job providing a solid education to students.

“We’ve been very pleased with how much she’s learned,” Erickson said.

She also said connecting one’s faith with their education is important to her family.

“In today’s day and age, kids really need that foundation,” she said. “It’s a blessing and we’re very thankful she comes here.”

White Creek Lutheran

Enrollment this fall at White Creek Lutheran School in Columbus is similar to last year, said Jan Buss, principal at the school that serves kindergarten through eighth-grade students. The school, which is for students in kindergarten through grade 8, has 130 students enrolled this fall.

It does have new offerings, however, such as a rotation of courses for each quarter — art, Spanish, music/American Sign Language and agricultural science — for students in fourth through eighth grades.

Buss said the courses will allow students to find new areas of potential interest that they may want to pursue in high school.

Several teachers approached Buss with the idea, which she said she strongly supports.

“We have very creative teachers,” Buss said. “They have ownership of it and students are excited about it, too.”

Buss described the school as one that is Christ-centered and family-oriented, and she credits the nine teachers for their efforts.

“It’s a big family here. And because it’s small, everyone knows everyone and we hope that the kids feel like they belong here,” she said.

Columbus Christian

Columbus Christian School started its school year with 205 students, a drop of 17 from a year ago.

The school lost 16 students to high school graduation last year, and has had just five students come in as kindergarteners this year, said Kendall Wildey, Columbus Christian administrator. Enrollment was also affected by ending a satellite school in Indianapolis, he said.

Columbus Christian, the only private school to offer a high school curriculum in Bartholomew County, starts its programming in preschool and teaches students through grade 12.

The school has a new principal in Angie Donnell; second-grade teacher Nikki Dailey is also new this year, Wildey said.

While enrollment is down, Columbus Christian has added several new electives this year for high school students, including a personal finance class.

Columbus Christian has partnered with Ivy Tech Community College this school year to offer dual-credit college courses for seniors in English composition, English literature, speech and another course that is yet to be determined, Wildey said.

The partnership will help students fulfill credit hours they need to graduate from Columbus Christian and also gives them credit hours toward fulfilling the requirements toward an associate’s degree as well, he said.

ABC-Stewart

ABC-Stewart School, located on the west side of Columbus, has about 200 students enrolled so far this year — comparable to past years, school director Mike Gorday said.

It’s still enrolling students for the fall semester, he said.

The Montessori-oriented program for preschool, kindergarten and elementary-aged children serves students starting at age 2 through sixth grade.

Gorday said the school, which he described as multi-cultural and one that attracts families who have come to Columbus from different parts of the world, has hired two new teachers this year.

ABC-Stewart also offers Spanish to students at the elementary level, something that has been popular among families.

“That’s been an attraction for many years,” Gorday said.

St. Bartholomew Catholic School

St. Bartholomew Catholic School

Address: 1306 27th St.

Grades served: Kindergarten through eighth grade

Tuition for 2017-18 school year: $4,175 for St. Bartholomew parish members; $6,350 for non-parish families

Choice scholarship school: Yes

More information: www.stbirish.net

ABC-Stewart School

ABC-Stewart School

Address: 6691 W. State Road 46

Grades served: Age 2 through sixth grade

Tuition for 2017-18 school year: $6,700 per student in first through sixth grades

Choice scholarship school: No

More information: www.abc-stewart.org/

White Creek Lutheran School

White Creek Lutheran School

Address: 16270 S. 300W

Grades served: Kindergarten through eighth grades

Tuition for 2017-18 school year: $4,450 for grades 1-8; $2,600 for kindergarten three-day a week program

Choice scholarship school: Yes

More information: http://whitecreek.org/school/

St. Peter's Lutheran School

White Creek Lutheran School

Address: 719 Fifth St.

Grades served: Kindergarten through eighth grades

Tuition for 2017-18 school year: $6,760

Choice scholarship school: Yes

More information: http://stpeterscolumbus.org/school/new-families

Columbus Christian School

Columbus Christian School

Address: 3170 Indiana Ave.

Grades served: Kindergarten through 12th grades

Tuition for 2017-18 school year: Varies depending on grade level (Kindergarten for whole year: $4,795; grades 1-6: $5,335; and grades 7-12: $6,075)

Choice scholarship school: Yes

More information: www.columbus-christian.org

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Matt Kent is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at 812-379-5712 or mkent@therepublic.com