As schools continue to struggle with balancing the health needs of their communities with the education needs of their students, one segment of the K-12 education landscape has shown resilience, and in many cases, is managing to thrive.
According to a survey of 160 private schools in 15 states and the District of Columbia launched by the Mid-South Independent School Business Officers association, almost half reported they have experienced higher enrollment in the current school year relative to the prior year. Of schools where enrollment was unchanged, 14 reported they already were at capacity and could not have added to their enrollment.
At the time the survey was conducted (Nov. 18-20), 121 of the schools were engaged in full-time, face-to-face learning. The remaining 39 were following a hybrid schedule with some students learning in classrooms for part of the week and virtually for the rest of the week. None of the schools surveyed were fully virtual.
Most schools in the survey are in five states – Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia – according to Damian Kavanaugh, president of the nonprofit group MISBO.
“Families make school decisions for their children based on many factors, but the economic hit that most households have taken should have led to fewer families being able to afford a private school education for their children,” Kavanaugh wrote in a commentary for The Hill. “Based on our survey results, one reason independent schools may have gained enrollment during these tough economic times is that these schools have been more likely to remain open, having created detailed protocols based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other guidelines to maintain student and teacher safety.”
Kavanaugh pointed out in his piece that given the severity of the pandemic-related recession, and taking into consideration that private school enrollment today remains below 2007 figures, it was reasonable to expect a decline in private school enrollment for the current academic year.
“It seems like the independent school sector is having success balancing the goals of keeping students and teachers safe while providing a quality education during these challenging times,” he said. “And, despite the economic challenges faced by many families, more American families are making the increasingly difficult financial sacrifice to entrust private, independent schools with the education and care of their children.”