SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio – Many people missed some of the early signs that the 2020 school year may be even more freakish than we already thought.
Watch Kevin Barry’s report on News 5 at 6 p.m.
As public districts worked on e-learning plans and hybrid models, many private institutions in Northeast Ohio sought to accommodate students on campus while ensuring their safety.
“We actually tripled the number of parent and student visits in those months,” Pinkerton said, noting that some of those visits were virtual and others social distanced and in person.
In the first few weeks of school, Looney and Pinkerton claim that the two schools have only about 10% of their students attending classes exclusively at home full time.
Hathaway Brown and Hawken School are not alone.
The Registration management association helps 1,300 private schools across the United States and parts of Canada streamline their application process with a common application.
Heather Hoerle, executive director and general manager of the Enrollment Management Association, told News 5 that interest in the private schools they work with increased over the summer across the country. Hoerle says 36% of schools are exceeding their enrollment targets while ensuring the safety of students and staff. An additional 27% have already achieved the enrollment targets for the current school year.
A parent’s dilemma
“How does a kindergarten child learn in front of a computer,” David Lum asked, of his family’s decision to send his students to a private school.
He and Tendai Mukeredzi shared the same concern as parents with partners who also work from home that coordinating their students’ learning would be incredibly difficult while they continue to meet their professional obligations.
“This e-home learning exception was not going to work in my house,” Mukeredzi said.
“We had the experience of Hathaway Brown and Shaker [Heights City School District] in a pandemic and it was part of that comparison that informed what we wanted to do in the future, ”said Dan Ratner, parent of Shaker.
Ratner’s 7-year-old daughter joins her 11-year-old sister at Hathaway Brown this school year, leaving the Shaker Heights district. Ratner says that was in part because Hathaway Brown offers in-person learning options, but also because the transition from HB online at the end of the last school year was so smooth.
“It was more that I was blown away by Hathaway Brown,” Ratner said.
Diocesan schools / Schools in partnership
“The story of our global enrollment is that it has been declining for decades,” said the superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Dr Frank O’Linn.
O’Linn says the increased demand for in-person classes is visible in some communities, but across the diocese he says some increases have been at least partially offset by families leaving Catholic schools because they have been hit hard by the economic effects of the coronavirus and can no longer afford school fees.
But two schools in the diocese that once had enrollment problems are seeing drastic increases. These schools are now managed by a non-profit management company Partner schools.
“There has been an increase in enrollments,” said partner schools enrollment and recruitment coordinator Portia Gadson.
Gadson says that between the two schools run by the partnership schools, Archbishop Lyke and St. Thomas Aquinas, enrollment has increased by 30%.
She says part of the increase is due to additional investments made by partner schools in buildings, new conversations with families to convince them to enroll, and parents sharing their experience with other parents.
But, just since the start of the 2020 school year, families from other districts have noticed the parades of masked students flocking to the buildings every day.
“We had parents who drove past our schools and saw students standing outside and said, ‘Wait, there are students over there,’ and brought their students,” said Gadson.
Always support the municipalities
“I have great plans to support Shaker [Heights City Schools] very strongly, ”Ratner said.
He says he returned to Shaker Heights from New York City because he wanted to be back in northeast Ohio and is in conflict with enrolling his students in a private school.
“We feel like we are Shaker parents with two kids at Hathaway Brown,” Ratner said.
Local districts could potentially lose funding in future years if enrollment drops and stays at these lower levels. Public districts that have responded to News 5’s requests about changing enrollments in the wake of the pandemic say they are not seeing significant declines.
Still, Ratner says that as someone who believes in public education and supporting his community, he will do whatever he can to strengthen local public schools, even if his daughters don’t attend them.
“There are lots of ways to support Shaker even if your kids aren’t around,” Ratner said. “But I think the main way is to listen to the people who are there and that’s what I’m ready to do.”
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