Uncertainty hangs over private school enrollment due to COVID-19

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Nora School in Silver Spring

Photo of the Nora school website

Silver Spring Barrie School expects approximately 300 students to return this fall, about 20 fewer than last year. But school principal Jon Kidder said that number could increase as families explore options in response to the ever-changing COVID-19 situation.

“Our phones keep ringing,” Kidder said. People ask if the school is going to be in person, the quality of virtual learning and the health measures to protect students. “The questions are not surprising. These are the very things we have been grappling with since the spring.

Barrie has announced an in-person reopening phased August 26 for children 1 to 5 years old. Two weeks later, the plan calls for the return of students from grades one to three. By October 1, senior elementary students are expected to return to its 45-acre campus.

Middle and high school students will start online. The school hopes to resume in person if conditions permit, Kidder said. Families can also choose full-time virtual education.

The exact number of students who will return to private schools – or be drawn to them for the first time – during the pandemic is uncertain.

“For the record, I’ve heard that many schools have seen an influx of inquiries, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into registrations,” said Myra McGovern, Association vice president of media. National Independent Schools, which surveys its members. on enrollment trends this year.

Usually, private schools are fully enrolled in March, although some are competitive with high demand and others have continuous admissions.

A NAIS poll this summer found that many schools have extended the date by which enrollment contracts must be signed. For contracts that would typically be due in May, the deadline has been extended to June, McGovern said.

“Part of this was to give more flexibility to families currently enrolled, recognizing that so much is on the move,” she said. Another survey by the association reports that many schools have established emergency financial aid funds to help students stay enrolled.

Typically, private school enrollment doesn’t change much during a recession and the same is expected to be true for this recession, McGovern said.

“Having said that, it’s a little different. It’s so much more dramatic, ”she said. “We’ve never had this experience before when there has been so much change.”

School systems across the county have struggled to introduce plans to reopen for later change. However, it is unusual for public disagreement to cause multiple back-and-forth between school plans, as happened in Montgomery County in late July and early August.

“All principals and staff are trying to figure out what is the best approach and there is no right answer,” McGovern said.

At Norwood School in Bethesda, classes will begin in September online for Grades 1-8 and in-person, half-days, for Kindergarten and Kindergarten.

The school expects to be at full capacity with around 450 students, the same number of enrollments as last year, according to Leanne Gill, director of communications.

Enrollment at Nora School in Silver Spring appears stable, according to school principal Mara Nicastro. The school is 94% enrolled (with 51 students to date) and new students are applying.

Instruction will be online until October 2, with some options for small group or in-person support.

Enrollment is unchanged at Gonzaga College High School in northwest Washington, with 900 boys, and at Bullis School in Potomac, with approximately 810 students.

The Siena School in Silver Spring will be fully virtual for the first semester.

Although new families have expressed interest in the school, places are limited between Grades 4 and 12. The enrollment number stands at 135, which is similar to last year, said Bekah Atkinson, director of admissions.

Due to the pandemic, the Geneva day school in Potomac had to reconfigure the classes to comply with health regulations establishing, among other things, social distancing, masks and hand hygiene.

It was open during the summer for outdoor programming. The plan is to resume on September 8 in person, but with fewer students. The school expects 85 students (2 years old in kindergarten), against more than 200 last year, according to director Suzanne Funk.

At Sandy Spring Friends School, all academic and after-school programs for grades K-12 will be conducted online for the first semester.

The overall enrollment is on par with last year (around 600 students), but there are 40 international students in the high school, about half of the number that was enrolled last year, said Margaret Rosser. , spokesperson for the school.

Elizabeth Hamilton, principal of St. Jane de Chantal School, a pre-K through 8 Catholic school in Bethesda, said some families have left because they don’t want to pay school fees if their children aren’t. not in full-time class, as new families have shown interest. Ultimately, she expects the number of registrations to be about the same as last year – 380.

“We’ve certainly opened our doors and our arms to them,” Hamilton said of the school, which plans to run students two days on campus and three days at home with distance education. “A lot of people just watch. You can see they are just shopping. We send the information and we will wait to see what happens.


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