For some parents, decisions on where to send their children to school may have gotten a little bit easier.
St. Joseph School announced that it has partnered with local businesses to increase the amount of money available for tuition assistance.
According to St. Joseph Principal Dr. Howard Ferguson, the effort is a response to a growing school population.
Since 2007, the school's enrollment for students in kindergarten through fifth grade has increased from 48 to 87. Ferguson said the increase reflects an expansion from a kindergarten through Grade 3 facility to K-5, but does not include pre-kindergarten enrollment currently at 22 students.
According to Ferguson, the first step in accommodating a larger school population was developing a curriculum in compliance with the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Diocese of Erie's standards. The school, he said, also made efforts to align its curriculum to that of the Warren County School District.
"To try to make the transition from fifth to sixth grade as seamless as possible," Ferguson said.
From there, he said, the school worked to increase community awareness of St. Joseph.
The efforts have begun to pay off, he said, but higher enrollment presents new challenges.
"As we've grown we've become more diverse as far as the families involved and their economic situations," Ferguson said.
In response, the school has worked toward increasing tuition assistance and has garnered a total $62,000 to help families next school year.
"We expect, next year, to have a lot of people benefiting from this," Ferguson said. "This is a major step forward. It's a way that we can reach out."
The business contribution to tuition assistance, $52,000, will be provided through local donations to the STAR Foundation of the Diocese of Erie. While the foundation provides tuition assistance across the diocese, the $52,000 was earmarked for St. Joseph when donated.
According to Ferguson, he contacted contributors Whirley Drink Works and Superior Tire and Rubber, while Northwest Savings Bank and Johnson Tire Company took the initiative to donate. In turn, the businesses will benefit from the Educational Improvement Tax Credit program.
The funds will be distributed by an independent group contracted by the Diocese of Erie on a needs basis.
"It's completely objective," Ferguson said. "(It's) based on tax returns and financial information."
Beyond the $52,000, the school has received an additional $10,000 in local monies to be used for tuition assistance. Distribution of local funds will be administered by Ferguson and Fr. Richard Toohey.
The application period for assistance in the 2013-14 school year is only open for a limited time.
"The application process for next year is going on right now," Ferguson said. "It (the application) has to be in by March. 31 to the Erie Diocese. If they're interested in attending next year and might need financial assistance, the application process is open now. Once it's closed, they can't apply until next year."
Ferguson said interested applicants can contact him at St. Joseph at 723-2030. Tuition assistance information is also available through the Diocese of Erie website.