Enrollment shows decline for home schools, increase for private schools

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 16, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY — Home-school enrollment numbers in Rowan County have dipped slighty, but the number of home schools in the area has grown.
Private schools in Rowan County saw the opposite trend. Enrollment numbers climbed, despite the closing of the Salisbury Seventh-day Adventist School.
There were nearly 90 fewer home school students in 2010-11 than the previous year, with enrollment dropping from 1,550 to 1,461, according to data released by the North Carolina Department of Non-Public Education, which regulates home and private schools.
The number of home schools in the area jumped from 766 to 809 this year.
Enrollment figures at private schools increased by more than 30 students in 2010-11 from 917 to 949 students, despite the number of schools falling from 11 to 10.
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Rowan County had 17 students enrolled in home school in 1988-89, the first year the Department of Non-Public Instruction began keeping data.
Lisa Wilson, president of the Rowan County Home School Association, said there are more than 1,460 home school students today for a variety of reasons. She cited academic rigor and religious values as factors parents consider when choosing to home school.
“It varies so greatly, I hear all kinds of different stories,” she said. “I think one of the things is probably just today’s time where people are wanting a few more choices in their lives.”
Spencer Mason, president of North Carolinians for Home Education, said the number of home schools is also increasing as families become more familiar with the concept.
“Because there are more home schoolers out there more people are aware of what home schoolers are up to and what they are doing and how successful they are,” he said.
Mason said many parents opt for home schooling because they think they can do a better job than public school systems are doing.
“The biggest advantage is that we can tailor the school to fit our children instead of having to fit into a system,” he said.
Wilson said more people are also becoming interested in home schooling thanks to groups like her organization, which offers monthly support meetings. The Rowan County Home School Association also has athletic teams for everything from football to volleyball, as well as an annual science fair and talent show.
Local support groups like the home school association make home schooling a more attractive option, Mason said.
“I think a lot of folks get into home schooling and they want to know that there is some kind of support network nearby in case they run into questions that they don’t know the answer to,” he said.
Although Mason said he expects home school enrollment to continue on an upward trend, he acknowledged that it’s not for everyone.
“I would really caution anybody that is considering home schooling to talk to other home schoolers first to get an idea of what’s going on … know what you’re getting into” he said. “Half of people that begin home schooling quit after a year. The more you know about it the more successful you can be.”
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Several Salisbury private schools have noticed an uptick in enrollment in line with the county trends.
North Hills Christian School has seen its numbers go up between 10 percent and 15 percent every year since 2008.
Head of School Matt Mitchell attributes the growth to the addition of programs and a positive community response.
“A lot of families are very satisfied and they are telling people about us,” he said. “And, of course, it’s a Christian School, so we feel like the Lord has blessed us.”
The school will have a record 360 students this fall, which means an expansion is in order.
A modular unit with five classrooms and two restrooms is currently being installed.
“Once a capital improvement plan gets solidified we’ll be building,” Mitchell said.
Salisbury Academy’s enrollment has also climbed slightly. The school will have about 160 students this fall, up from 145 last year.
Admissions Director Betty Kuvinka and Head of School Diane Fisher said many parents opt to send their children to Salisbury Academy because of the smaller environment and rigorous curriculum.
They said the school’s art and music programs as well as sports for fifth-graders also attract new students.
Sacred Heart Catholic School will begin the fall semester with about 240 students, up 33 percent over the past several years.
Principal Frank Cardelle said the school’s new facility has attributed to its growth.
“I think that definitely helped us start the ball rolling, you could see the enrollment pick up after that,” he said.
Cardelle said the school’s history, dating to its founding in the 1880s, is also a plus.
“There are a lot of alumni in the area, a lot of children are coming to us because their parents graduated from Sacred Heart,” he said.
As enrollment continues to grow, Mitchell said North Hills is capping its classes to ensure smaller teacher to student ratios.
Cardelle said Sacred Heart is also being mindful of its rate of growth.
“We were looking for that balance between wanting to grow, but at the same time keeping the ratios smaller because that’s why parents pay the money to go here,” he said. “We must be able to offer that one-on-one time,” he said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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Home schools enrollment
Year            Enrollment    No.of schools
10-11            1,461               809
09-10            1,550              766    
09-09            1,569              727  
07-08            1,237              673
06-07            1,287               667
05-06            1,202              613
04-05            1,100               582
03-04            1,023              527     
02-03                  992               496
01-02                  928               462
Private school enrollment
Year            Enrollment    No. of schools
10-11               949                 10
09-10               917                11
08-09               979                 12
07-08               972                 12
06-07               937         Not available
05-06               895         Not available
04-05               914         Not available    
03-04               913         Not available
02-03            1,089                  Not available
01-02            1,229                  Not available

Note: Data provided by the Department of Non-Public Instruction