Robert D. Miller is looking for a quality, faith-based education for his 4-year-old daughter, Becky -- but he isn't sure the schools will have room for her.
The schools the Crofton parent has in mind are parochial, and in Anne Arundel County they had a waiting list yesterday of 318 applicants. "It is competitive," Miller said. "But that is just the way it is around here."
He was among some 50 parents and young children attending a ceremony yesterday as the Archdiocese of Baltimore detailed plans for an elementary school on Waugh Chapel Road in Crofton that will serve families in five county parishes.
In a ceremony outside Our Lady of the Fields Church in Millersville -- one of the five parish sponsors -- archdiocesan officials, including Cardinal William H. Keeler, announced the name of the school: The School of the Incarnation.
The interparish elementary school -- the first Roman Catholic school built in Anne Arundel in 35 years -- also is co-sponsored by St. Joseph in Odenton, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Crofton, Holy Family in Davidsonville and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Edgewater.
Demand for parochial education exceeds student space throughout the archdiocesan system, which covers metropolitan Baltimore and Frederick, Washington and Allegany counties. All told, more than 1,000 students are waiting for spots.
The 60,000-square-foot School of the Incarnation will open in fall 2002, with an enrollment capacity of 540 from kindergarten through eighth grade and a $3,500 annual tuition. But the demand for kindergarten spots is so pressing, officials said, that the school will open next fall with two kindergarten classes in temporary quarters at Our Lady of The Fields Church.
Its 23-acre site also will eventually be home to a new Roman Catholic church and parish for the Waugh Chapel Mission community.
The Rev. Michael J. Callaghan, pastoral director of the mission and director of the interparish school project, said the archdiocese is struggling to keep up with the county's "mushrooming" growth -- especially in the western portion. He said three new apartment developments are within a mile of the school site.
Janice Peck, director of schools marketing for the archdiocese, said Anne Arundel is following a trend seen in other jurisdictions. The archdiocese has announced plans to build schools in Harford, Frederick and Baltimore counties over the next few years.
"Schools are just filled to capacity," she said.
Ronald J. Valenti, the archdiocesan schools superintendent, said a growing demand for value-centered education makes Catholic schools "very appealing to parents."
Callaghan said parents recognize that "our culture and values are out of whack." He said he grew up in public schools, but feels they "build a wall between kids and faith." Pointing to a design of the new school, he said, "This is where we should be putting our money."
The cardinal, whose late mother was a parochial school teacher, said parents are looking for an education with "faith, values and consistency for their children."
The new school will include classrooms for computers, music, art and science; a media center/library; and a multipurpose space that will serve as a room for physical education classes, as well as a dining room and auditorium.
Administrative offices and a chapel for the new Waugh Chapel Mission will be part of the school building until the church is built.
Among the parents present for the ceremony were Ray and Gina Smith, parishioners at Our Lady of the Fields. They have three preschoolers ranging in age from 7 months to 4 years.
Both said they grew up in Catholic schools. Gina Smith, who said she attended both public and parochial facilities, prefers Catholic schools: "I want our children to grow up knowing their faith, and we'll scrimp on other things so that we can afford to send our children to Catholic schools. It is one of our main priorities."
Ray Smith said they plan to apply quickly.
Applications will be available in January.