Why I Chose St. Francis Xavier Catholic School in Philadelphia

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By Mareese Keane

The primary reason why I choose Catholic school for our daughter was that she was not going to meet the public school age limit for Kindergarten.  We were coming from Canada where the age limit for Kindergarten was 5 by December 31st and we were only moving to Philadelphia for a couple of years so when looking for places to live, I asked in a couple of Catholic schools to see if they would take her, and St Francis Xavier said they were happy to.  This ultimately brought us to live in Fairmount!  I think the Catholic schools have a little more flexibility than the public schools in that regard.  Overall I was very happy with the Catholic school experience (specifically St Frannies) for the following reasons:
  • They run a pretty tight ship……there is a sense of discipline and respect in the school which I liked.  Bad behavior is not tolerated, so if you have a child with challenges in that regard, it might not be the place for them.
  • They set a reasonably high academic bar.  My daughter is a smart kid but she was definitely challenged to work hard.
  • There is a pretty mixed demographic in the school but ultimately you have parents who are prepared to pay for education and are therefore engaged in the education process.  Saying that, the fees (about $3,500 a year) are not too prohibitive for many.
  • If you become engaged in the school/church community, there is a great social support network to be found.
  • It is one of the neighborhood schools and we could walk there and had some local friends although in reality the school has a very wide catchment area so lots of her friends lived quite far away (Roxborough, near the airport, New Jersey!!)

The limitations of St Frannies are as follows:

  • There is a strange reluctance on the part of the school to have the kids outside or running around the large school hall during recess.  They have a wonderful parish garden which is not utilized adequately.  This makes for a very long day indoors for the kids.
  • They do run on a very tight budget so some facilities are not utilized hardly at all, e.g. the library!  They do however have a good music program.
As to the religious education part of it, you obviously have to be happy to have your child exposed and potentially engaged in a Catholic Education.  Being a more liberal Catholic (somewhat “A-La-Carte”) I was not uncomfortable with any of the things I heard being passed on to my daughter.
We’ve recently moved to California and have a fantastic public school.  In the presence of great public schools, I wasn’t inclined to even investigate the local Catholic school.  Saying that, there are things that I miss about it:
  • The uniform!
  • Not having to take my daughter to after school CCD.
  • The community overlap of church and school.
  • I definitely don’t miss paying fees!

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