Three of the four Bartholomew County private schools saw enrollment rise this year, with Columbus Christian School experiencing the biggest bump at 22 percent.
Columbus Christian’s jump from 168 to 205 students is attributed in part to the state voucher program, which allows qualified low- to middle-income families to use state funds to send their children to private schools. Columbus Christian has 53 students on vouchers this year, compared with 30 last year.
First-year Principal Kendall Wildey called vouchers a blessing.
The other component driving enrollment growth is positive word-of-mouth advertising, Wildey said.
But as Columbus Christian continues to grow, its resources are getting spread thin, he said, adding that it’s sometimes difficult to come up with extra desks, computers and other classroom materials.
“We are in the process of working through the growing pains in terms of space,” Wildey said. “We hope to continue to grow, so we have a problem of having to build on.”
Total enrollment among local private schools has increased by 50 students, or 4.8 percent, from last year.
Here are snapshots of the other private schools in the area:
Mike Gorday, director of ABC Stewart, said enrollment has increased by about 10 students (9.1 percent) at the kindergarten through sixth-grade level of the local Montessori school.
“I think the people in the community recognize the quality of education we provide,” Gorday said. “This is our 43th year in Columbus, so it has a reputation for outstanding educational programs.”
St. Peter’s, which offers kindergarten- through eighth-grade classes, has added 18 students this year.
Principal Scott Schumacher said the slight growth at St. Peter’s was due more to the school’s good reputation than to vouchers.
St. Bartholomew, also a kindergarten through eighth-grade school, lost 15 students.
Principal Kathy Schubel wasn’t concerned with the slight dip in her school’s enrollment, where a small kindergarten class contributed to its overall decrease.
Having a drop in enrollment in a particular grade is something that parents don’t mind, in that it generates a smaller student-teacher ratio, Schubel said.
Therein lies the quandary private schools face.
“I would like to see our numbers grow,” Schubel said. “But it’s kind of a double-edged sword. A lot of people come here because of the small class sizes. If you grow too much, you lose them.”
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