By Karen Meeks     2/1/2016

Before parents make a decision about the right elementary and/or high school for their children, they should consider enrolling them in a Catholic school.

“The benefits of a Catholic education are very, very clear,” said Greg Dhuyvetter, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Orange. “It provides that exceptional balance that’s not available anywhere else.

Dhuyvetter, who oversees 41 elementary and secondary schools that serve 15,000 students, recently sat down with OC Catholic TV to discuss the Catholic school system in advance of Catholic Schools Week, which takes place from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6.

“Students are in an environment where the signs and symbols remind them of their Catholic faith all the time,” he says. “The whole environment, the behavior code, the way people act towards one another – are built upon Catholic teachings. All of these are important elements of why Catholic schools are the best place where students can have their Catholic faith supported, grown and developed over time.”

Academically, Catholic schools in Orange County are equipped with the latest technology and up-to-date instruction methods.

“Based upon our test scores, I would put our schools up against any public school in relation to academic achievement,” says Sally Todd, associate superintendent of schools. “Our schools are extremely strong, Our parents will attest to that.”

Parents also say that their children feel safe on campus, Dhuyvetter says.

“And that’s something bigger than just the buildings,” he says. “It has something to do with the way they are run, the way people support each other, the way everyone acts.”

But with 41 Catholic schools in the county, how does a parent choose?

“Although they all have some excellent academic opportunities in a faith-based and growing environment, they’re all different,” Dhuyvetter says. “If I were a parent considering a Catholic school, the most important thing, and what I would stress above anything else, is that they need to visit the school and get a feeling for the environment.”

He suggested families consider the school that serves their parish, then look at other schools. He also suggested touring the campus and meeting the principal. Is the child comfortable at a smaller or larger school? Is there specialized art or science program that interests the child?

Todd recalled one parent who ended up placing one child at Rosary Academy in Fullerton, another child at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, and a third child at Servite High School in Anaheim.

“It was because that individual school fit the needs of the child,” Todd says.

Servite and Rosary, in addition to Cornellia Connelly High School in Anaheim, are single-sex schools, a variation that newly selected Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King wants to increase in her district. She recently cited single-sex schools as one way to improve academic achievement.

While single-sex schools may be a preferred option for some students, it may not be the best fit for all students, Dhuyvetter notes. “It isn’t for everyone, just like coed school isn’t for everybody,” he says, adding that it is fortunate that the Diocese of Orange offers both options for students. “This is where a family needs to be visiting multiple schools and seeing what environment works best for their students.”

Whether it’s for an advanced learner or a child with special learning needs, there’s a Catholic school for that child, Dhuyvetter says.

“There’s a fit for a family in one of our schools that would serve the needs of their children,” he says. “We consider it a great opportunity for every Catholic family.”