Families looking to transfer their students from a public school to private Catholic school will have a unique opportunity this winter, thanks to the School Choice Scholarships offered at Ss. Peter and Paul School in Lehighton.

Scholarships worth up to $2,000 are being offered for children who wish to transfer to Ss. Peter and Paul School from a public school during the spring semester. These scholarships cover approximately 80 percent of the cost of attending the parochial school, and are provided by CEO America and the Children's Educational Opportunity Fund in Allentown.

Ss. Peter and Paul School Principal Sherry Sernak was excited to receive notice that the school is eligible for 25 scholarships for mid-year transfer students. All families with an annual income of less than $50,000 will be considered.

"One thing that we do on a regular basis is to try to increase the scholarship funds for our students. As costs go up for all Catholic schools, there's a fear that the cost of a private education will become out of reach for families," she said.

The scholarships are offered to remove financial boundaries that might prevent local families from enrolling a child in a private, faith-based school. CEO America founder Jim Saunders is also offering the scholarships to raise awareness of the school choice and educational voucher programs currently being debated in Pennsylvania and across the country.

"If parents are looking for a more disciplined, higher-achieving environment, and they have not been able to secure that for their students because of financial barriers, this is their opportunity," said Sernak. "We strive to give students the tools to succeed and to grow spiritually, socially and academically. We offer a challenging curriculum and one-on-one attention for students. That one-on-one attention and a curriculum written well above the state standards allow our students to be a full year ahead of where they would be in a classroom of a larger size."

In recent years, Ss. Peter and Paul School students have ranked in the top 5-10 percent in the nation on standardized tests. Sernak firmly believes that it is the school's teaching staff and individualized attention allows students to excel academically. She works with the school's teachers to assess each incoming student's academic strengths and weaknesses to ensure that students transferring midyear have a smooth transition.

Parents considering transferring their children to Ss. Peter and Paul School through this scholarship program are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as a maximum of 25 School Choice scholarships will be awarded. While Sernak works closely with donors to secure scholarships each year, she added that there is no guarantee of transfer scholarships being available for the 2013-2014 school year.

"Don't wait until next year, when the possibility is there for scholarships or school vouchers," she said. "We're working very hard to get the donors for next year's students, but this opportunity is available now. Parents are welcome to take a tour and have students spend the day here if it helps them to make a decision."

For more information or to apply for a midyear School Choice Scholarship, go to www.ssppschool.org to download the 2013 scholarship application, or contact Ss. Peter and Paul School at (610) 377-4466. Parents will need to submit documentation of household income from their 2011 federal tax return.