After about two weeks in a public school setting, Khadijah Anderson decided to put her son back in private school because of the smaller class sizes and what she believes is better communication during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Time magazine reported more parents across the country are choosing private schools for their children during the pandemic because of smaller classes, more outdoor space for students and endowments to help with needs spurred by COVID-19. But although Anderson made that choice for her son, the national trend of public school students boosting enrollment at private schools isn’t yet being seen in Longview.
Anderson’s son, Joshua, started classes at Pine Tree Primary School, although he attended St. Mary’s Catholic School this past school year.
St. Mary’s does not offer virtual learning for kindergarten students, and Anderson said she wanted her son to stay home. But communication and technology issues frustrated her enough to return to St. Mary’s.
“At St. Mary’s, I can call over in the middle of the day or I can email them a question and I’ll have an answer real quick,” she said. “But the public school, say for instance the first day of school, I sent an email to the teacher and she didn’t get back with me until the next day until 8:30 that evening. I didn’t like that. And I understand there are a lot of more kids in the public school for her to attend to, but the communication just wasn’t good for me.”
St. Mary’s Principal Darbie Safford said the school’s overall enrollment is lower this year with 190 students compared with 210 in fall 2019. The school offers classes for pre-K through 12th grade.
Out of 42 new students, five are transfers from public school, she said.
Registrar Melinda Dunn said she believes enrollment will increase as some families wait to reevaluate at the end of the fall semester.
“Their decision is based on COVID-19 cases in the community, other school closings or possible shutdowns, and that we are not offering kindergarten or pre-K distance learning as one of our platforms,” Dunn said.
At Christian Heritage Classical School in Longview, Registrar Jana Horne said enrollment is fairly steady compared with previous years. The school offers classes for pre-K through 12th grade.
“Christian Heritage has gained 45 new students this year, with 13% of those students coming from public schools,” she said. “I am not aware of a family that chose CHCS instead of public school because of COVID-19. Most of our growth is due to word of mouth.”
Though she originally wanted to keep her son at home, Anderson said she felt safer having Joshua at a school with a smaller class size .
“When it comes to education, I think any parent will do what they can do to make sure their child is receiving what’s best for them,” she said. “If I’m going to pay for something, and I’m getting communicated well through it, I’d rather pay for that and get it well than get a free education and now know what’s going on inside the classroom.”
Safford said enrollment at St. Mary’s was not immune to the economic effects of COVID-19.
“We have had several families who were negatively impacted by either the unemployment crisis associated with the pandemic or the ongoing fallout in the oil industry,” she said. “Several families had to make very difficult choices.”
Horne said Christian Heritage is able to provide a safe environment in the pandemic.
“With COVID-19 this year, we are especially grateful for our highly-qualified teachers, our small class sizes and our desire to put protective measures in place so that we can stay at school and learn in a safe, loving environment,” she said.
Longview Christian School declined to comment, while Trinity School of Texas did not respond to questions related to enrollment this semester.