As the school year wraps up, parents make decisions on where their child might go to school next year. Education leaders are seeing an increasing interest in private schools.
“We have higher numbers than we’ve had in the past several years in both elementary and middle schools, we’re looking at possibly adding a couple of classrooms in both elementary and 7th and 8th grade, Valerie Hamlin, a parent, and Director of Marketing at Denver Academy, private school, said. “I think a lot of that is because those kids really need hands-on learning from teachers, especially in person, and we can provide that.”
Two of Hamlin’s sons attend private schools. Declan, 11, started school here this year.
“It’s just a whole different type of learning this year,” he said. He’s seen how school operations this year have impacted his friends.
Private schools operated this past year differently, mostly choosing to be in person, whereas some public schools are still operating remotely.
“Private schools can have smaller class sizes, and they could do in-person learning from the beginning of the school year,” Hamlin said. “During online learning, the parents are really having to step in and play a teacher role a lot, and that's harder when you have younger kids.”
It’s one of the reasons why she had Declan switch schools.
“For us, it really turned the tide when we knew we could go to in-person school at a private school...and public school was going to start with remote learning, which wasn't a great fit for my kid and his learning style,” she said.
She’s not alone. Private schools are seeing an influx of applicants for next year.
“We’re doing our very best to expand and not turn anybody away, but we want to make sure we’re maintaining the value and quality of our education that we’re known for,” Hamlin said.
“It’s absolutely the case that parents are begging for new options. We saw that in September alone. Ninety percent of private schools were open and operating,” Tommy Schultz, CEO-elect of the American Federation for Children, said.
The American Federation for Children is a school choice advocacy group.
He said there is a growing trend toward alternative school options this year, as remote learning has presented challenges for kids, parents, and public schools.
“We heard this anecdotally across the country from private schools to charter schools, millions of parents are melting down their phone lines saying how can we get into your school because you're wide open and you’re just down the street for instance,” Schultz explained. “What we’ve seen in a lot of public opinion surveys is that parents are willing to do whatever they can to give their child a great education. The problem is in so many states across the country. There are strict legal barriers about doing that.”
Schultz said he hopes the pandemic has shed light on the discussion needed around giving parents school choice.
“To me, there's no greater form of local control than letting parents have the freedom to choose the best education for their son or daughter. Public, private, public charter, online, homeschooling, you name it,” he said.
As parents prepare for the next school year, private schools are preparing for more students.
“There's just a little bit more flexibility with private schools, so I think that’s probably the advantage there,” Hamlin said.