By Michael Reul
Having just over 230 students, the class of 2016 is the largest in school history.
There are many theories for the size of the class, but the answer is simple. Houston is a booming professional town with a growing population.
“There is a bit of a demographic shift (in Houston),” Principal Rev. Patrick Fulton C. S. B., said. “People are moving back into the loop for which we are well situated.”
As a 113 year-old Catholic environment, there are many draws towards the school.
“Whether it be sports, the tablet program, the Learning Enrichment Center or the strength of our academic program, we are receiving many more applications.” Fulton said.
While the aim is to serve as many students as possible, there are certain limitations.
“Structurally, you have to look at the maximum number of students we can hold,” Assistant Director of Admissions and Recruiting Keith Page said.
Students might not realize the difference in their class size relative to the other classes on campus, but most come from smaller middle schools and are taking on the task of meeting new people.
“You don’t really notice the difference,” freshman William Heck said. “It wouldn’t matter to me if we had less people in our class.”
Heck comes from Annunciation Orthodox School, a middle school with around 80 students in his eighth grade class. This is an example of a larger middle school.
Many freshman come from schools with 50 or less students in their class. While they adjust to a larger class at St. Thomas, it is understandable that they fail to notice that their class is larger than others.
Other classes can tell that they are small in comparison, though.
“Through Fish week, it was easy to tell that [the senior class] was greatly outnumbered by the freshman,” senior Parker White said. “Most of my friends were paired up with more than one fish.”
This is not surprising considering the class of 2016 has 53 more students than the senior class. While this may look like a large gap, the senior class of 2013 is on track to becoming the largest graduating class in St. Thomas history, a record soon to be overcome by the class of 2016.
Freshman may not realize the incongruity, simply because they have not known anything else through their short time at St. Thomas. However, the difference is evident in each individual student classroom.
“One of the things that is helpful in our academic mission is relatively small class sizes,” Fulton said.
The extra students would surely be hard to spread out in order to achieve this small class size.
“We really don’t want any class to have more than 28 students. Still, the classes have more students, and the teachers have a few more students to teach,” Page said.
The hiring of two new teachers, math teacher Mary Cassaro and English teacher Laura Speck, was necessary to ensure a favorable classroom size.
Speck came in from a school where the normal class size was upwards of 30 students, so she can attest to the fact that smaller classrooms benefit both the students and teachers.
Other related additions to the staff include a fourth counselor and a freshman counselor to help make sure each student gets as much attention and help as needed.
The new Learning Enrichment Center is another way to accommodate the needs of a larger class. The LEC has a program called SOAR which is directed towards freshman. It encourages goal setting, organization, and curiosity.
The class of 2016 is lucky to have so many classmates who will serve as friends for life. Still, those who are not prepared for the workload of a college preparatory school might not last through the first year here, though the class of 2016 will likely be the largest graduating class in recent history.
The size of the class of 2016 was no mistake, and the administration hopes that the future enrollment of the school continues to rise as we continue to grow.
“The constant struggle in Catholic education is to be as inclusive as possible.” Fulton said. “The Greek word for Catholic means universal. Our mission is to be as universal and accepting as possible.”
This year’s freshman class sets a new standard for the admissions process. If we continue to accept this number of students, the total enrollment of the school will grow each year creating more opportunities for growth in all aspects of St. Thomas student life.