Thousands of students in the state’s largest chain of private schools are observing Catholic Schools Week. Many schools are holding open houses, special worship services and community events to mark the week. Jeff Henderson is superintendent for the Archdiocese of Dubuque and says they’re focused on this week’s theme of “A-plus for America.”

“We believe certainly in the importance of the program and how we are preparing our students for the future,” Henderson says. “We look at this as our way of saying thank you and celebrating what we do each and every day in our classrooms.” Henderson says there are 16-thousand students from day care and pre-kindergarten to high school attending 54 education centers in the 30-county area that makes up the Dubuque Archdiocese. He says Catholic schools offer a variety of choices for students.

“We have more freedom to teach,” Henderson says. “I think, a lot of times, people think we’re more restrictive but, in essence, we’re a lot less restrictive. When you think about the history of the planet, even the history of the United States is immersed very heavily in faith-based programs, faith-based education, just faith in general.” Henderson says one of the biggest challenges facing Iowa’s Catholic school system is the budget situation. He says they need to get more creative in finding ways to finance the schools.

“We face the same challenges that a lot of people are facing right now which centers around finances,” Henderson says. “The recession has really hurt parishes. It’s hurt schools because people are in a position where they just cannot give the way that they’ve been able to give in the past.”

Learn more about the week and the Archdiocese of Dubuque at “www.arch.pvt.k12.ia.us“, the Des Moines Diocese at “www.dmdiocese.org“, the Davenport Diocese at “www.davenportdiocese.org” or Sioux City at “www.scdiocese.org“.

By Pat Powers, KQWC, Webster City