Coronavirus fallout: Private schools seeing jump in applications by families unhappy with remote learning

School children at Mason's Mars Academy give an open-house presentation in the school's gym earlier this month. Officials at Mars, and some other area private schools, say they are hearing from more public school parents who express frustration with the lack of in-person classes caused in some districts by the coronavirus. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)
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School children at Mason's Mars Academy give an open-house presentation in the school's gym earlier this month. Officials at Mars, and some other area private schools, say they are hearing from more public school parents who express frustration with the lack of in-person classes caused in some districts by the coronavirus. (Provided Photo\Journal-News)

Some area private schools are seeing higher numbers of families trying to enroll, and officials say the coronavirus’ impact on public schools is playing a role.

Spring is usually the busiest time for non-public schools applications, but some private school officials said they are already seeing increases.

Some families are telling school officials they want an alternative to public schools and their various strategies in dealing with the pandemic, which have included fluctuating class schedules between remote and at-home learning and hybrid schedules.

“We are experiencing one our best re-enrollment seasons in our school’s 25-year history,” said Mars Academy Admissions Director Patsy Hall of the private school in Mason that has been doing in-person classes this year. “The pandemic and resulting lockdowns have made parents re-evaluate what is important for their families.”

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At Hamilton’s Badin High School, which is the only Catholic high school in Butler County, officials are also seeing a sharp jump in applicants.

“What do we attribute this to? Probably the fact that we have been in school (in-person) since Aug. 23. Students and their families want to be in school,” said Dirk Allen, director of admissions for Badin.

Badin officials said the Class of 2025 could be its biggest in 15 years. Of the 163 students already registered for that class, 27 are from non-Catholic or public schools.

Another possible factor is Ohio’s recently expanded eligibility rules for its EdChoice voucher program, which would help cover some private school tuition costs for families who qualify and live in public school districts also meeting the criteria for residents to enroll in the program.

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Some private schools are not seeing a higher number of enrollment applicants but are hearing from public school parents an appreciation for maintaining live classes this school year.

Officials at Fenwick High School said their application totals remain steady.

“Our current enrollment is 510 and our applications are on par with previous years,” said Morgan Kurtz, director of admissions for Fenwick.

But, Kurtz echoed other private school officials in saying applicant families “coming from surrounding public school districts have been impressed to hear that Fenwick is fully in person.”

There is no single clearinghouse for data on motivations of school applicants, or whether they are moving from public school systems, other than that provided anecdotally by private school officials.

Some non-public schools have adjusted their sales pitches for new applicants to incorporate references to the pandemic.

“I think our marketing this year has been exceptional, too – ‘Never Before Have We Needed Each Other More’ has been our tagline. That has really resonated with people in the midst of the pandemic,” said Allen.

Mars Academy officials also altered their traditional open house tours to better accommodate coronavirus precautions, including holding student and teacher presentations in their gym rather than classrooms.

“A record number of families pre-registered for the event - more than double the amount who registered in 2020,” said Hall.

“We were uncertain how many families would be interested in attending a modified open house. Instead of allowing families to come and go between classrooms, we brought the classroom to them.”


School enrollment

  • 3 percent decrease for Ohio public schools from fall 2019 to fall 2020
  • 0.4 percent was the largest drop in any of the previous three years

Source: Ohio Department of Education data

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