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What to Know When Choosing a Private School

Missing an open house doesn't mean the opportunity to visit the school is lost, and getting enrolled by early spring can guarantee your child a spot.

Private school registration for the 2013-14 school year is underway, and parents are scrambling to find the best private schools.

Dawn McComb, principal of Brookfield Academy’s Rochester Hills Campus, part of Michigan’s first Montessori school, said parents who visit at open houses often come prepared with specific questions.

“Parents are often very interested in the curriculum at the school. They want to know teacher-to-student ratio. They want to know about tuition,” she said.

Other FAQs asked are:

  • What are the after-school programs?
  • Are there uniforms and what’s their cost?
  • What are the school’s timings?
  • Is there childcare?
  • What’s the longevity of the staff?
  • What are the facilities?
  • What’s the class size?

In addition to group tours, parents often seek an individual tour as well, McComb said.

“So it’s just them and the principal. It gives them the opportunity to ask personal questions that they didn’t want to ask in a group,” she said.

What Makes Private, Religious and Montessori Schools Different

"The biggest difference between private schools and public schools is I think the smaller classes," said Amy Schlussel, director of admission at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills.

She said they also emphasize personal development for teachers who participate in regular webinars and other training.

Schlussel said religious schools go a step further than private schools by developing students' character through the schools' core values.

"We’re giving them an identity and a self-confidence to who they are," she said. "It's beyond how they do in the classroom; it's how they are and the values they have."

Hillel Day School only accepts Jewish students, she said. Other religious schools like Mercy High School, a Catholic college preparatory school for young women, is open to students of various religious beliefs.

The Montessori philosophy focuses on the children's environment, which is designed to stimulate their interest and help facilitate understanding spontaneously with little or no adult intervention, according to Art Start Montessori Academy of Farmington Hills.

Different from other private schools, Montessori teachers often stand back while a child is working to allow the child the satisfaction of self-discovery, according to Art Start.

Find a local private school

Parents can use online databases like Private School Search that help search for private schools in their area based on gender, religion, tuition and more. Private preschools in the Ferndale area include Ferndale Montessori Center and the Drayton Avenue Co-Op Nursery.

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