Choosing the right private school for your child can be a difficult decision. The Richmond area offers a number of private school options, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
5 Factors For Comparing Private School Options
You have many factors to weigh when determining which school best addresses your educational concerns and fits your son or daughter’s unique needs and personality. As you evaluate schools in the area, consider a few key factors towards your final decision.
1. Educational Philosophy
Every private school aims to educate its students and help them reach their full potential, but how the school approaches this goal can deeply affect how well the education serves your child and their individual needs.
A traditional academic-based approach is common at certain schools such as The Steward School. This philosophy places an emphasis on academic achievement on a traditional scale and can be well-suited to students who are comfortable in a typical teacher-led classroom setting.
Other Richmond-area private schools are faith-based and incorporate their denomination’s particular values into their educational approach. For example, Elijah House Academy defines their educational philosophy and goals for each student in relation to the tenets of their religion.
Certain faith-based schools in the area are single-sex, such as St. Christopher’s for boys and St. Catherine’s for girls. For parents who are concerned about both spiritual and intellectual education, such private schools can be excellent options.
Still, other schools take a less traditional approach that aims to help students build their skills as a whole person rather than just focusing on academics. For example, Brook Road Academy embraces a conversational approach to education that is aimed at cultivating the following:
- interpersonal skills
- communication ability
- independent analytical capability
- social awareness
- individualized academic interests and potential
No one educational philosophy is right for every student and their family. However, understanding the role that the school’s approach plays in the education it provides can help you choose the private school that best meets your child’s needs and your goals for their education.
2. School and Class Size
Research shows that students at all grade levels benefit from smaller classes and lower student-to-teacher ratios. This factor alone is often one of the biggest reasons that parents choose private school over their zoned public school.
Beyond investigating the average class size at the private school you are considering, you should also consider how the overall size of the school’s student body affects the learning environment and school community.
Some private schools in Richmond, VA cover all grades from junior kindergarten through 12th grade, and these schools can get quite large. Collegiate School, for example, has almost 1,700 students across its grades.
Certain benefits do come from having a bigger student body, like a more expansive athletic program. However, a larger school usually has a less connected community across grades. Some children thrive in a bigger and more competitive environment, others find themselves lost in a school that is as large as (or larger than) the average public school.
Brook Road Academy falls on the opposite end of the spectrum with a maximum capacity of just 50 students across six grades. With a small student body, the school cultivates a supportive community that is often described as feeling like a family. For example, Brook Road Academy is able to hold school-wide meetings on a weekly basis that address student concerns and recent events as a whole community.
Ultimately, whether a large school or a small school is better for your child will depend on their individual needs, personality and learning style.
3. Student and Parent Resources
In general, a Richmond-area private school that runs through 12th grade will provide comprehensive academic and college preparatory counseling for its students. The extent of this support may vary, and understanding the college counseling resources available is very important. Depending on your child’s particular needs, you may desire student and parent resources that go beyond college preparation.
Brook Road Academy’s counseling center (called Career and Transition Services) helps students understand the wide range of options available after high school, whether that means attending college or entering the workforce directly.
The school also employs a full-time counselor who specifically addresses students’ social and emotional issues.
4. Campus Facilities and Extracurricular Activities
Your child’s particular interests and hobbies will likely influence what you look for in regard to a school’s facilities and extracurricular offerings. A rising high school freshman who loves sports, for example, may be best-suited to a school with a varied athletics program, while a student who loves music may fit best at a private school with ample performing arts facilities.
The size of the school certainly plays a factor in their facilities and club offerings. The larger size of Collegiate School provides its students with a full aquatics center and multiple outdoor playing fields. However, even smaller schools offer extensive campus resources. Brook Road Academy is located on the 82-acre campus of St. Joseph’s Villa, which allows students have access to updated dining and gym facilities along with lush outdoor learning spaces despite the school’s small size.
5. Personal Factors
In addition to the above, factors that are unique to your family may influence your private school decision. Some families put great importance on younger children attending the same school as older siblings, while distance and transportation may be a key factor for other families.
Choosing the Best Private School in Richmond for your Child
Ultimately, there’s no single private school in Richmond, VA that is right for all students. Doing your research and understanding the differences in philosophy, size, facilities, resources, and activities of the schools you are considering can help you decide which Richmond-area private school is best for your child.