More students transfer to public schools from private

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Mattie Hyder wanted a new experience for her freshman year of high school -- one without uniforms and with a little more freedom.

Which is why the former Episcopal Day School student is now at Westside High School.

"I really wanted to see what public school was like, and I've really enjoyed it so far," she said. "The main difference is that I went from a class of 35 to a class of 300."

Richmond County schools are becoming increasingly enticing to parents with children in private school. There was an 18 percent increase in enrollment of students from private schools in the 2008-2009 school year, with 359 enrolling compared to 305 former private school students enrolled the previous year. Though economics possibly played a factor, public school officials say parents are finding quality.

Westside High School had a graduation rate 7 percent higher than the school system in the 2007 to 2008 school year, with more than 70 percent of seniors graduating, according to the Governor's Office of Student Achievement. Richmond County School board member Alex Howard said schools such as Westside are raising the bar for public schools.

"It may be an adjustment for the children, but the public schools kind of open them up to the real world," he said. "The best part is they're going to get the same level of education."

Westside Principal Tim Spivey said he has noticed almost a 10 percent increase in students coming from Episcopal Day, Augusta Christian and Westminster schools. He said parents who transferred their children from private to public schools are sharing their stories with other parents.

"They tell their friends who are spending $10,000 to $12,000 a year, and they're saying, 'Things are going great for your kids, so why I am spending $12,000?' " Mr. Spivey said.

Jeanne Hyder, Mattie's mother, said because her oldest daughter, Kate, now a senior at Westside, had such a smooth transition from private to public school, she felt confident in enrolling Mattie at Westside last fall. Another family told them about the school's academic program.

"I'm happy with the school academically, socially and with the sports program," Mrs. Hyder said. "She always was around people just like us. Now, she has friends from different faiths, races and socioeconomic groups. It's been a great decision for us."

Lake Forest Hills Elementary is another example of a Richmond County school excelling in academics. The school exceeded district and state averages for achievement and attendance for students in first through fifth grades, according to the Governor's Office of Student Achievement.

Lake Forest Hills Principal Sonya Bailey said she has noticed more parents of private school students taking an interest in Lake Forest Hills.

Pam James Doumar, an Augusta mother of three, heard people praise Lake Forest Hills and decided to check into the school a few months ago. Her 6-year-old twins, Allie and Jackson, have attended Episcopal Day since they were 3.

"We were just overwhelmed by this little school. We just loved it," Mrs. Doumar said. "There's an accountability in public schools to the community they serve. I wanted to be a part of that."

The twins will start first grade at Lake Forest Hills this fall.

Though private school students are increasingly enrolling in county schools, some area private school headmasters say they have not noticed a significant change in their enrollment.

Stephen O'Neil, the headmaster at Westminster, said re-enrollment was going well at his school, which has more than 530 students.

There has been a higher demand for financial aid, he said, with 20 percent of his students receiving some form of assistance.

Ned Murray, Episcopal Day's headmaster, said his school is following the same trend of greater assistance need, but enrollment has not been affected.

The National Association of Independent Schools reports a similar trend, said association spokeswoman Myra McGovern.

"We are cautiously optimistic that enrollment will remain steady," Ms. McGovern said. "It will play out differently depending on the school area."

Mr. Spivey said he hopes private school students will increasingly enter the public school system.

"I think the better we do our jobs in Richmond County the more attractive we'll look to parents from private schools, especially with the economy the way it is."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

GOING PUBLIC

- For the 2008-09 school year, 359 students left area private schools to attend Richmond County public schools, an 18 percent increase from 2007-08.

- The National Association of Independent Schools reported no significant decrease in private school enrollment for 2008-09. However, 18 percent of students received need-based financial aid, a 4.3 percent increase from the 2007-08 school year.

- Nationally, the average range of private school tuition for 2008-09 was $15,250 to $19,475.

Source: Richmond County Board of Education, National Association of Independent Schools

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Asitisinaug
4
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Asitisinaug 05/03/09 - 11:57 pm
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Doubt it is anyones choice to

Doubt it is anyones choice to attend private school in Richmond County unless you are enrolled in a magnet school. With our economy as it is and people looking to save money, tough choices are being made. School vouchers would allow everyone the opportunity to attend good schools, both public and private and would put the bad schools out of business except for those who don't want to learn.

Just My Opinion
6306
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Just My Opinion 05/04/09 - 03:36 am
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I know plenty of folks who

I know plenty of folks who send their children to private schools, and most of them see it as a "status-thing". They tell themselves that the public schools have all the problems and they don't want their child to be involved with those people. Well, the fact it that there are problems in every school. I'm sure we'll be hearing soon from the parents who have their children in the private schools and they'll tell us why they think they are so much better. When I was in high school, we had 2 girls that came from Augusta Prep to Richmond Academy for their junior and senior years, and they both said they loved it. Seems that there are good academic challenges to be found at all the area high schools.

patriciathomas
42
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patriciathomas 05/04/09 - 05:03 am
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The reason private schools

The reason private schools don't have NEAR the discipline problem as government schools is because they don't have to tolerate it... 70% graduation rate at Westside is considered good? I still feel the government schools appear to have low expectation of their students. Vouchers would solve most problems with competition. (unions hate competition)

HYPOCRITES 08
7
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HYPOCRITES 08 05/04/09 - 06:17 am
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You naysayers must have

You naysayers must have missed the part where they stated that there were not many differences between public and private schools? I guess when you are saving 10 - 20 thousand dollars a year, " Government schools" are not that bad after all?

HYPOCRITES 08
7
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HYPOCRITES 08 05/04/09 - 06:19 am
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We know PT when you went to

We know PT when you went to school the graduation rate was 100%. However you failed to mention that your class only have 6 members.

justthefacts
25501
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justthefacts 05/04/09 - 07:03 am
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Hypo, I don't think the

Hypo, I don't think the sample size was large enough to make the asertion that there is no difference. Going from a class of 35 to 300 would have to make a difference, I would think. And, I agree with the PT who thinks 70% grad rate is not very impressive. Although I think most public schools run closer to 50%.

pointstoponder
631
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pointstoponder 05/04/09 - 07:14 am
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Just My Opinion, the most

Just My Opinion, the most often cited reasons I hear for enrolling children in private schools is quality of education, religious values and parental involvement. The most common reasons I hear for leaving are financial, desire for better grades (not a more challenging cirriculum), or leaving to attend one of Richmond County's fine magnet schools. Status is rarely mentioned.

Talkatoast
0
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Talkatoast 05/04/09 - 07:16 am
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Send them to Columbia County!

Send them to Columbia County! The graduation rate is decent here.

thistownisunbelievable
1
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thistownisunbelievable 05/04/09 - 07:35 am
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I can tell you from

I can tell you from experience that the switch from private to gov't schools is smooth--mainly because I didn't have to lift a finger (academically speaking) for about 2 years after switching from a private school to Tutt. There are certainly pros and cons for private v. govt schools, but I think parents are fooling themselves when they say the academics are the same. Unless you're talking about the very best gov't schools (like magnets, LHS, etc.), they simply aren't.

HotFoot
17
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HotFoot 05/04/09 - 08:02 am
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My daughter transferred from

My daughter transferred from Augusta Prep to Westside because Prep was incredibly white bread (little to no diversity), their idea of taking kids on a college tour was to visit podunk liberal arts colleges in the South, and her class had a drug problem. Seems people only talk about poor kids and drugs here, when rich kids get into plenty of trouble. She didn't want to be part of ANY of that, and she ended up loving Westside.

joebowles
104
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joebowles 05/04/09 - 08:02 am
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I think that many of us who

I think that many of us who attended and send our children to private schools do it for one reason you all overlooked. CHRISTIAN EDUCATION!!!! Is it perfect? no. Do we have problems? Yes. But overall this is something we value and think is the best for our children.

HotFoot
17
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HotFoot 05/04/09 - 08:03 am
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Also, my younger daughter

Also, my younger daughter went to LFH--a great elementary school!

LWEST
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LWEST 05/04/09 - 08:30 am
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Both of my children attend

Both of my children attend private school. They started 3 years ago and it was the best thing I have done for them. It cost an arm and a leg but my daugther went from struggle in a Richmond County school to doing GREAT in private. The class size is smaller and she is not being left behind as she was in a Richmond County school. I am not saying that all schools are bad but in the area that I live in they are not that great. I also want to say that they have the same problems as public schools no doubt but the teachers at the school that my children are going to go way beyond to help. I hope to be able to afford four more years so that my daugther will graduate.

hurlyburly11
0
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hurlyburly11 05/04/09 - 08:32 am
0
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LOL..this article is a

LOL..this article is a joke....is this some of that PR that the School Board had paid for?....thanks for the chuckle..and folks don't fall for this tripe.

just a comment or two
0
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just a comment or two 05/04/09 - 09:02 am
0
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One: You get to educate your

One: You get to educate your children only once. Pay for it now or pay for it later.
Two: Each family has the responsiblity to research the schools options in the CSRA and make the choice that is best for the student and the family. It's really no one else's concern.

dhd1108
1
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dhd1108 05/04/09 - 09:02 am
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going from curtis baptist to

going from curtis baptist to westside was rather refreshing. after being indoctrinated that public schools are evil and lacked the glory of the lawd, i found westside to be full of.. well similar stuff i experienced at curtis, but less of it. less cursing, less alcohol and drug abuse. more people who had a thirst for knowledge. many private schools are nothing more than day-cares for teens, and curtis/augusta christian are perfect examples. i wished i'd made the switch sooner.

hurlyburly11
0
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hurlyburly11 05/04/09 - 09:06 am
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lol.................

lol.................

chi chi
0
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chi chi 05/04/09 - 09:10 am
0
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Mattie went to EDS, not

Mattie went to EDS, not Wesminster. Gees AC, check your facts! I have a child that transferred from private to public as well and it has been great. I do think that the solid educational foundation provided in private school plays a big role though.

jack
11
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jack 05/04/09 - 09:33 am
0
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"Though economics possibly

"Though economics possibly played a factor, public school officials say parents are finding quality".....The last part of this sentence is pure hyperbole. The first part is more factual. I would not be bragging abut a 70% graduation rate. When I was in HS, failures were rare. The disruptive types were sent to alterntive school or expelled while the rest of us got an education. No doubt the young lady is having more fun, she dosn't have to apply her self as hard to make the grades private schools require.

belle
311
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belle 05/04/09 - 09:33 am
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asitisinaugusta......are you
Unpublished

asitisinaugusta......are you offering free transportation services for all the underprivileged children who's public schools near them will be closed if we go to a voucher system? We will LOSE these children if we go to vouchers. They will all drop out of school at a very young age.

jack
11
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jack 05/04/09 - 09:37 am
0
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ReasonRules, how about

ReasonRules, how about telling us which "podunk" southern colleges they toured that you obviously never attended any of in the south or any place else..

jack
11
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jack 05/04/09 - 09:43 am
0
0
Hypo, I know you have a hard

Hypo, I know you have a hard time telling the difference, but stating facts is not being a nay sayer. The public schools in RC as institutions of learning are a disgrace. My grand daughter is in CC schools for one reason-a much better learning environment and education.

Rozzie2003
5
Points
Rozzie2003 05/04/09 - 10:32 am
0
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70% graduation rate is good

70% graduation rate is good when you compare it with the graduation rates in the 40's, 50's, and 60's in Richmond County School System.Thers are good and sorry private schools and there are good and sorry public schools. Going to private schools is a status symbol in many instances. I went to one and we were taught class divison rather than strong academics. Publiic schools made our country great.The quality of schools didn't surface until school integration became legal.

TheShep
0
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TheShep 05/04/09 - 10:51 am
0
0
There are no good private

There are no good private schools around here. They all have really bad drug problems and they aren't held to the same academic standards as public schools. They do what they want. And the 70% graduation rate is pretty good, considering the ones who didn't graduate either were expelled, moved, or whatever.

whitmans77
7
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whitmans77 05/04/09 - 11:07 am
0
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Shep...that was probably one

Shep...that was probably one of the most absurd statements I have ever seen....do you have any proof to back that up?

JustAMom1
0
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JustAMom1 05/04/09 - 11:34 am
0
0
Shep, that is absurd. The

Shep, that is absurd. The number one reason I hear for students leaving private school is that the academics are too hard. Parents want their kids to get better grades without having to put forth any extra effort. While I don't disagree about all schools having problems, I would have to say it is significantly less than the public schools, especially at a small school like Westminster. For several years, a couple of private schools did have serious drug and alcohol problems, most memorably Prep & Aquinas, both of which were born out in the local news.

TheShep
0
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TheShep 05/04/09 - 12:04 pm
0
0
I have had several students

I have had several students come from Curtis and Evans Christian Academy who have told me that they hardly did anything there and that they could walk in a bathroom and see people doing drugs. Private school just aren't what people think they are

shivas
2
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shivas 05/04/09 - 12:14 pm
0
0
Tim Spivey is a Harrisburg

Tim Spivey is a Harrisburg legend. Unfortunately, he threw-out his elbow, and abandoned the Academy. That goes for Gerald Barnes as well. What a shame to have your legend continued at Westside.

Doc1
0
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Doc1 05/04/09 - 12:28 pm
0
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So 359 new sets of parents

So 359 new sets of parents realized they planned poorly. They now have to rely on government plunder and allow the government to educate their children. Really, no more than 20% of the population should have to accept this wellfare. That 20% should display proper shame. The rest should do their duty and raise their own children.

whitmans77
7
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whitmans77 05/04/09 - 12:35 pm
0
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I love how Shep makes

I love how Shep makes generalizations about all private schools. If you want to really know a private schools rigor then check their accreditation. Also "they could walk in the bathroom and see people do drugs"???wow!!!that one is believable!Just like public schools are different so are all private schools. So before you go throwing out generalizations do a little bit homework....they do have that at public schools right?

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