Private schools see enrollment surge during pandemic

Published: Oct. 25, 2021 at 4:38 PM EDT
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LAKE PLACID, N.Y. (WCAX) - Federal data shows enrollment in public schools is down across the country. Our Kelly O’Brien spoke with officials at North Country School in Lake Placid about why an increasing number of students are making the switch to private education.

The U.S. Department of Education says enrollment in public schools during the pandemic has dropped by more than 1.5 million students. Many parents are pulling their kids from public school and moving them to private schools or have turned to homeschool.

The North Country School in Lake Placid saw their enrollment go up 15%. “We also saw an influx of families coming from metropolitan areas more affected by the pandemic to live here in the north country,” said Todd Ormiston, the school’s executive director.

The private boarding school serves grades four to nine. The 80 plus students come to the Adirondacks from across the globe, though many of them call New York and Vermont home. “Middle school children are seeking consistency, they are seeking support, acceptance, challenge, and their seeking comfort. A lot of these qualities that have always been important at North Country School are more important now than ever,” Ormiston said.

Of the new students, Ormiston says a handful were living in urban areas and spent the previous school year online. “Not only has it impacted their progress academically but it’s been challenging, especially for middle-aged students. So, they are coming here to a form of safety they are not familiar with,” he said.

He thinks their place-based learning, which gets smaller groups out into nature, has helped the enrollment. “Not only are they learning in a traditional academic environment but we have students going outside and seeing things and doing things and apply the skills they are learning in the classroom to projects they are doing outside the classroom,” Ormiston said.

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