ST. LOUIS — Private schools across St. Louis tell 5 On Your Side they’re seeing an increase in interest and enrollment from families seeking a full-time classroom alternative to public schools’ virtual and hybrid plans.
“We're amazed at the outpouring. It's gotten to the point where we've have had to turn people away because we don't want to overcrowd the classrooms that we have,” said Michelle Eggold, principal at Our Savior Lutheran School in Fenton.
Eggold said 14 elementary-aged students have registered from the Rockwood school district, which is giving the option of two days a week in class or 100% virtual learning.
Several other schools in the Lutheran Elementary School Association are reporting increased enrollment, a spokeswoman said.
One mom in the Parkway School District, Michelle Francisco, said she’s considering a switch to private school for her son because she worries about the long-term effects of keeping him out of the classroom.
Francisco said the private school she visited already has plexiglass around desks and contact tracing plans while Parkway schools won’t open their doors for the first half of the semester.
“The analogy I’m using in my own mind: the public school is like the Titanic, and a private school is like a rowboat. Which one can you turn around quicker?” Francisco said.
Another mom told 5 On Your Side she’s making the switch because her son didn’t connect with virtual learning.
“Watching the regression happen from March on was just heartbreaking,” Peggy Ward said.
Ward took her rising 4th grader out of Ladue schools and enrolled him in the Immacolata Catholic School this school year. She said part of the safety plan is required masks.
“He has gone to camp this summer, so we've lived through the safety precautions and seen how well it works,” Ward said. 'It's made me even more sure that he can go back to school five days a week.”
Safety, of course, is paramount for any school that chooses to reopen. It’s why many districts are choosing not to.
“The children are just so important to us that we want to do everything we can to keep them safe and healthy. So coming up with those plans took a lot of work,” Eggold said.
At Miriam Academy, which caters to high schoolers with unique learning abilities, social distancing comes with the building.
“We have 38,000 square feet for only about 58 kids, so this has been really nice,” Principal Sue Jackson said.
Jackson said some class sizes are as small as 5 students, which gives everyone room to spread out — even when she factors in an expected 10 additional students this year.
St. Louis County has recommended all schools start virtually, and last week County Executive Sam Page requested all schools planning to offer in-class instruction also have virtual back-up plans ready to go.