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Kylee Schilb, a first grader at Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School, plays a xylophone on Monday. The school has doubled in student population since last year.

BELOIT — Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School, 2222 Shopiere Road, has doubled its enrollment from last year and test scores have improved from the fall, according to Principal Trevor Sievert.

At this time last year OLA had 82 students and is now up to 161 students. The influx in students include 32 from St. Peter’s Catholic School which closed in the spring of 2020, as well as students from a mix of other school districts. OLA also took additional students from the Beloit School District when the decision was made to do distance-only learning this summer.

Seivert recalled one day giving a tour to 11 students, or five families, as interest in OLA increased.

OLA, like other schools, closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic.

It opened for in-person learning this fall. In September when OLA students took the Renaissance STAR 360 tests, most classes were down 5 to 7% in scores compared to the school’s average for the past three years. The school was receiving a three out of four rating for the reading and math tests. However, staff went about improving student skills.

Teachers used the data from testing to identify students with skill gaps and put them in small groups to help them get caught up. The testing system the school adopted four years ago gives specific directions on how to increase skills for each student following testing.

“It was so important to have tests in September so teachers could take students where they needed to be,” he said.

OLA underwent a two-week shutdown in mid-October, and three or four classes had an individual shutdown. There have been a total of six positive cases of COVID-19 among students from the fall until Feb. 22.

OLA has a total of 50 staff and 92% have either received one or both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as of Feb. 22.

Sievert said he was pleasantly surprised with how well students acclimated to new safety protocols and how teachers helped the students catch up academically.

January testing indicated all classes are now testing at or above grade level, with the school getting a four out of four rating, the top category.

Some students made significant progress.

For example, there was one second grader who scored 7% out of the 100 percentile and now he’s at 85%.

“He was a new student,” Sievert added.

“Some of the scores have just skyrocketed,” Sievert said. “All the credit goes to the teachers.”

This year OLA has 16 students to one teacher to meet safety requirements. However, next year, once the vaccine roll-out is further along, Sievert expects the school could take 40 to 50 more students to have classrooms at size 20 to 25 students per teacher.

Sievert said the school has come a long way since last spring. He said a safety plan was made and staff and students have adapted to it well.

“Policy and procedure has become routine. To us. this is normal school now,” Seivert said. “The results are showing this has been successful.”

To help families attend OLA Sievert said tuition was frozen last year and only went up $100 for the year this year.

Tuition for most families is about $3,000 for the year but there are different levels of assistance for qualifying families. About 10% of families can get into OLA for $400 a year.

“We are not here for the privileged. We are here to serve,” Sievert said.