Northwest Arkansas private school enrollment fluctuates during pandemic

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FAYETTEVILLE – Back-to-school dates, learning models and early childhood programs are contributing to the evolution of private school enrollment during the coronavirus pandemic, administrators said.

“Even outside of the context of the pandemic, sometimes even the best public school systems are not best suited for a child at a particular time in their life,” said Myra McGovern, vice president of media for the National Association of Children. independent schools.

The nonprofit provides trend research and analysis, leadership and governance advice, and professional development opportunities to leaders of more than 1,900 schools and school associations in the United States and the United States. foreigner, according to the association’s website.

Arkansas had about 160 private schools serving more than 19,000 students as of April 2020, according to the Arkansas Department of Education website. Washington and Benton counties had some 18 private schools with more than 3,300 students enrolled, according to the website.

The average tuition fee for private schools in Arkansas is around $ 5,834 per year, compared to a national average of $ 11,004, according to Private School Review, a website detailing private schools, their benefits, and their processes. candidacy.

A third of private schools nationwide reported enrollment gains for the 2020-2021 school year in a survey conducted the week of September 7 by the association, McGovern said.

Local increases

Thaden School welcomes students from grades 6 to 12 in Bentonville and had 20 more students enrolled this year than last year, said Lisa Herschbach, vice-principal of the school. The school has 254 students enrolled, she said.

Tuition at the school ranges from $ 2,600 to about $ 26,800 per year and is determined by each family’s income level, according to the school’s website.

“Our current enrollment is very close to our enrollment target for the year,” said Herschbach. “Our plan from the start was to grow gradually until we reached about 540 students in total in grades 6 to 12.”

The school began on Aug. 24, similar to public school districts in the area, but using a fully online learning model in the interests of student and staff safety, Herschbach said.

“We are free to do this because we are an independent school,” she said. “We don’t have to open in the same way that district schools have been able to open.”

Thaden School resumed general education programs on campus on Wednesday unless there was a substantial increase in regional covid-19 infections, she said. Families can only use e-learning if it remains best suited for their student, she said.

“I cannot, in the absence of a crystal ball, predict what will happen,” she said, noting that school security measures have been put in place to mitigate the spread of the covid-19 virus.

The Bentonville School District had 89 cases of covid-19 since the start of the school year, Fayetteville had 78, Springdale had 214 and Rogers had 134 as of Thursday, according to the district’s websites. District data includes students, staff and faculty.

The Shiloh Christian School started school on August 14 using in-person and online learning models and has added around 100 students this year, said Brian Dunaway, director of communications and technology.

The school has about 1,000 students from kindergarten to grade 12, has campuses in Rogers and Springdale, and costs about $ 8,000 to attend each year, Dunaway said.

Interest in school attendance increased when the state’s school district start dates were pushed back from Aug. 13 to 24, Dunaway said.

“When you have two parents working at home, you are really at a dead end,” he said. “How do you take care of your child when your professional life depends on nine months of the year that he is in school?” “

Heather King, 38, heads talent management for Walmart International and has a second and fourth year at New School in Fayetteville, she said. Both previously attended Marymount International School in Paris before moving to Bentonville in the spring.

King said she was looking for a school with a curriculum similar to her children’s in France and smaller classes that offer in-person learning.

“One parent can’t handle two children’s online learning,” King said. “It’s not fun. It wasn’t great for anyone.”

The average class size at The New School is around 12 students, said Nancy Lang, principal of the school.

King said she believed smaller class sizes would mean schools would be less likely to switch to online learning.

“When you have 30 kids in a class around seven like my daughter, that’s just more people you’re exposed to,” she said. “There is a greater likelihood that they will come into contact with someone who has covid or someone in their family who has covid.”

Regional decreases

Working parents are also factored into the decline in private school enrollment in northwest Arkansas, administrators said.

The new school has seen a drop in enrollment, Lang said.

The school’s highest enrollment rate was 400 students from infancy to grade 12, with around 343 enrolled this year, she said.

New School students began the school year on Aug. 13 using in-person and online learning models, Lang said. Tuition at the school ranges from $ 15,000 to $ 19,000, she said.

The largest decrease in enrollment is in the early years program, Lang said.

“We suspect this is in part because we closed the entire campus in March to on-campus learning,” Lang said, noting that working parents often rely on early years programs as a form. child care.

Reopening the school in August after some parents found childcare in the meantime is a likely factor, she said.

“At the moment, there aren’t really any negative impacts on our community,” Lang said. “In the long term, of course, our goal is to increase the number of registrations to pre-covid numbers.”

The decrease in student numbers was enough to cancel one of the pre-K programs at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School in Rogers, said Alice Stautzenberger, principal.

Classes began for the school’s kindergarten through eighth grade students on Aug. 13 using in-person and virtual learning models, she said. Tuition at the school ranges from around $ 4,234 to $ 7,056, she said.

Enrollment in Saint-Vincent-de-Paul fell from around 400 students to around 360, Stautzenberger said, noting that the largest drop in enrollment occurred in the part-time pre-K program at the school for 3-year-olds.

“Obviously, these are parents who didn’t need their kids to be somewhere everyday,” she said, adding that parents who use the service part-time usually don’t work.

The school has a waiting list for full-time pre-maternal care, she said. The school is unable to meet needs at this time due to space constraints instituted during the pandemic, Stautzenberger said.

Some families with kindergarten and first grade children also decided to go to other schools because St. Vincent de Paul did not offer the virtual learning model for kindergarten to grade one students, Stautzenberger said.

“We didn’t think this was the perfect way to teach kindergarten to first graders,” she said. “We miss these families and hope they have a successful experience with their all-virtual choice and hope they will return after the pandemic.”

Liberty Strickland, a sophomore at The New School, leans out of the car on Thursday, October 1, 2020, before being dropped off at the school for a day of class in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / David Gottschalk)

Nancy Lang, principal of The New School, greets Kindergarten student Harlow Hayes on Thursday, October 1, 2020, as she walks into the school for a day of classes in Fayetteville.  Visit nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery.  (NWA Democrat-Gazette / David Gottschalk)

Nancy Lang, principal of The New School, greets Kindergarten student Harlow Hayes on Thursday, October 1, 2020, as she enters the school for a day of classes in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / David Gottschalk)

John Gourlay, director of development at The New School, helps first-grader Logan Patrick with his backpack Thursday, October 1, 2020, as he enters school for a day of classes in Fayetteville.  Visit nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery.  (NWA Democrat-Gazette / David Gottschalk)

John Gourlay, director of development at The New School, helps first-grader Logan Patrick with his backpack Thursday, October 1, 2020, as he enters school for a day of classes in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / David Gottschalk)

Troy Schremmer, early childhood music teacher at The New School, runs with a banner as he greets the students on Thursday, October 1, 2020, as they are dropped off at the school for a day of classes in Fayetteville.  Visit nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery.  (NWA Democrat-Gazette / David Gottschalk)

Troy Schremmer, early childhood music teacher at The New School, runs with a banner as he greets the students on Thursday, October 1, 2020, as they are dropped off at the school for a day of classes in Fayetteville. Visit nwadg.com/photos for a photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette / David Gottschalk)

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