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What Is a Parochial School?

Some people use the terms “Catholic school” and “parochial school” interchangeably. In some cases, a school may be both, but in many cases, it’s not.

What is a parochial school?

A parochial school is a private school affiliated with a religious entity. In many cases, that entity is a church. Frequently that church is Catholic, although sometimes it’s not.

Some may refer to Jewish or other religious schools as parochial if the school is directly linked to a place of worship. However, “parochial” is rooted in the word “parish,” so typically the term “parochial school” references a Christian, and more specifically, Catholic, organization.

Are most Catholic schools parochial?

More than half are. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 60% of Catholic schools are parochial, meaning they’re associated with a specific church. But the rest aren’t.

For example, there may be a Catholic school in your area that provides religious education but exists independently of any particular church. A school like this wouldn’t be considered parochial.

Recommended reading: Why You Might Consider a Catholic School (Even if You’re Not Catholic)

What kind of education is offered at parochial schools?

Parochial schools are subject to the same state guidelines as any other private school. They teach a standard curriculum including math, science and reading, however, a religious education is administered alongside it.

Parochial schools, like other Christian schools, may also offer the ability for students to go through sacraments, including First Communion and/or Confirmation.

Who can attend a parochial school?

Because they’re private, each parochial school is able to determine which students they admit. Some may require that the family be a member of the affiliated church. Some may not, but may require increased tuition from non-members.

Some parochial schools give preference to those who identify as Catholic, or whatever religion is associated with the school, though others may not.

Interestingly, the National Association of Episcopal Schools makes a point to use the word “parish school” instead of “parochial school” to avoid the perception that one’s religion takes precedence. On why they specifically use that term, they state on their website: “Parish schools are founded and exist to serve the educational needs of the entire community in which they are located, not just those of parishioners. This is reflected in the fact that the student body of an Episcopal parish school or early childhood education program is, on average, about 25% Episcopal, and that our programs serve [a] diverse population with respect to religious tradition and affiliation.”

Some schools that identify as parochial, though, make a concerted effort to include students of all faiths and cultural backgrounds.

Interested in religious schools? Find one here

Author: Ali Trachta

Ali is the former Content Writer/Editor at Niche. She's a content strategist and award-winning writer, as well as a former editor at LA Weekly and NEXTpittsburgh. As a mom of one who's lived and worked all across the country, she's glad to have once again found her niche in her hometown of Pittsburgh.