Several factors behind rise in enrollment at private schools

Enrollment at area private schools favored by beachside families is steadily growing, attracting parents and students who are looking for hands-on learning, small class sizes and a sense of community, administrators say.

“We have been very busy doing tours and taking phone calls,” said Kathleen Falk, principal of Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School in Indialantic.

Holy Name of Jesus and Brevard County’s eight other Catholic schools all have open houses for prospective students from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today. Other private schools popular with beachside families include Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy – Upper School in Melbourne, which has an open house from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Tuesday; Coastal Community School in Satellite Beach, which has open houses at 9:30 a.m. today, April 12, April 26 and May 10; and Florida Preparatory Academy in Melbourne, which hosts an open at 9:30 a.m. on April 21. Holy Trinity President Kathy Cobb said the school has 862 students in its upper and lower schools combined this year, the highest number since 2008.

This year there was a waiting list for several grades, she said.

“What we’re doing now is enrolling new students for next year, so if there are interested families they really do need to contact the school and come to visit, because there’s a good chance that, particularly the upper school, will be full.”

Brevard County had 84 private schools in the 2015-2016 school year, with 8,939 students enrolled, according to the latest statistics available from the Florida Department of Education.

Pat Craig, Holy Trinity’s director of enrollment management, said families are attracted to the school by its combination of religious training and high academic standards.

“One of the things is our pledge to educate the entire child, mind, body and spirit, especially the spirit,” Craig said. “We have opportunities for children to participate in worship, character, ethics courses.”

She added that Holy Trinity also has a robust athletics programs, on par with public schools in the county.

Many of the private schools are introducing new initiatives in science, technology and math, or expanding on existing ones.

Holy Name of Jesus, for example, recently added a maker space where students can do hands-on projects in engineering and math. The school has 241 students in grades pre-K through eighth.

“They build robots, they build circuits and they build bridges,” Falk said. “The program itself really helps to round out the child in terms of problem solving.”

Coastal Community School, which has 80 students in pre-K through eighth grade, takes an entirely new approach to education. Principal Sarah Angrisani said the school is a “hybrid” model, in which students have on-campus classes two days a week, are homeschooled two days a week, and do all their enrichment classes like art and music one day a week.

“It’s a whole culture shift for the family,” Angrisani said.

Besides its unique model and flexible system, Angrisani said parents appreciate that Coastal Community is a beachside school, and that it emphasizes faith and family togetherness. She said the school has grown ever since it opened four years ago, and a Feb. 27 open house drew more families than expected.

Angrisani and other administrators said concerns about school safety could be a small factor in why parents choose private schools, but none consider it a factor in increasing enrollment.

“What I do see is parents desiring more of a school choice,” she said.

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