Children who attend a Catholic school can become part of a larger parish community, such as St. Mary’s Visitation in Elm Grove, which held this statue blessing earlier in the fall. (Submitted photo)

Just as no two children are exactly alike, each school within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has its own unique blend of strengths to offer your family. Chances are, if you look, you’ll find there’s a Catholic school for you.

Educational Philosophies

Are you a family that looks for a more classical education, or are your children more interested in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) curricula? There is no right or wrong decision, only a personal preference.

Accreditation and Exemplary Recognition

All schools within the Archdiocese of Milwaukee are fully accredited. In addition, many are recognized as exemplary in one or more areas. These awards, aligned with the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools, are valid for five years. Schools chosen to receive Exemplary Recognition display outstanding achievement in one of the following areas, as demonstrated by information provided in the online application and data validated by an onsite visiting team: academic excellence, mission and Catholic identity, and educating the whole student. More information about this program is available at

School Size

There are pros and cons to both large and small schools. Smaller schools can often offer a more individualized approach and close-knit family feel, while larger schools may allow for greater diversity, allowing students who belong to smaller affinity groups a chance to find more peers with similar backgrounds.

In some schools, there are different campuses for elementary and middle schools, while others serve K3 through eighth grade in the same building. Your family may prefer this, or may want the separation.

Parish Involvement

Many schools exist as a vital ministry within a parish or cluster of parishes. As a result, the crossover between the school and parish communities can foster a closer-knit environment, and an increased sense of belonging in both school and parish.

One mother said, “Sending our children to a Catholic school was something we had talked about and decided on, even before our wedding. However, when we started looking for a school, our home parish did not have one it was affiliated with. This gave us a lot of freedom when choosing, and ultimately, the school we picked — about 20 minutes away — was part of a vibrant parish that welcomed us with open arms. Our children are excited for Sunday Mass because they know they will see a number of their classmates on the playground afterward. It’s not something we thought to look for, but we feel blessed to have found this community.”

Extracurriculars and Student Life

For many families, a large chunk of their free time is spent facilitating their children’s activities — for example, driving their kids to practices for sports and the performing arts. When these are offered at school, not only does the transportation get easier, but the students get to see one another shine. If a school does not offer a specific program, ask to see what their policies on starting new activities are.

Student Supports

Many schools now employ student support staff to serve the social, emotional, academic and spiritual needs of students.

All students with disabilities are entitled to special education services through the local public school district, even when they are enrolled in a Catholic school. It is worth speaking to a Catholic school near you to see what they can offer your child.

Logistical Concerns

The 101 Catholic schools (85 elementary schools and 16 high schools) across the Archdiocese of Milwaukee understand the unique challenges that many parents who choose a private school face. For some schools, amenities in the form of before- and after-school programs, bus service and hot lunches can help busy families make the school day a bit easier. Payment plans, scholarships, sibling discounts and school choice voucher availability can help with cost.

Schools across the archdiocese will have open houses (see Page 16) coinciding with Catholic Schools Week, which is Jan. 29-Feb. 4. Take tours, speak with students and staff, and get a feel for each school you are considering. There is no one right school, but it is worth searching for the right fit. Depending on the size of your family and the grades served by the school, you may find a home there for many years.