It boils down to what’s best for the student
Public schools are an immediate choice for many parents simply because they are the most obvious choice. As a publicly funded institution, tuition is no issue for parents, and in many cases, the schools’ centralized location also ensures that children are returning home fairly soon after the day ends. Not only that, but with a wide selection of extracurricular activities run by the school system, it seems like a public school education is an easy choice to make. Coco Jacobs, a Gainesville mother of three, has had experience with both public and private education. Her two sons attended public school where they played sports, made friends, and flourished.
Said Jacobs, “When it comes to distance and pricing compared to a private school, using a public school for education was no contest.”
However, there are other options out there for those who prefer a different approach to the education of their children. Many parents who feel that public school is not an appropriate fit for their student might find the smaller class sizes of a private school to be a better fit.
Said Marc Belanger, the Director of Advancement at Highland School, a private school in Warrenton, “A major benefit of an independent school education is the small teacher-student ratio that empowers teachers to give each child the highly individualized attention and support they need.” According to Jacobs, while her daughter Emma started in public school like her older siblings, she really found the academic push she needed once she moved to Middleburg Academy, a private school in Middleburg. While Emma is primarily there for educational reasons, she’s also found that she enjoys the social life aspect of the school.
“She’s friendly with all of her classmates and her teachers,” said Jacobs, “and there’s enough accountability among the staff that someone is always helping her keep an eye on her grades.”
So then the question arises: how does one decide what place is best for their children? “In my opinion,” said Belanger, “finding the ‘right’ school for a student is a highly personalized process which does not easily lend itself to general comparisons. Each family must decide what is best for them.”
Jacobs believes the answer lies more in the needs of the child than in the needs of the parent. “I’ve found that public school works very well for children who are self-motivated and want to go out to achieve themselves, but for children that need that little bit of extra academic push, a private education might be a better way to go.”
In an area like ours, there are numerous options for primary and secondary education, and each school has its own approach, areas of emphasis, and ideology. To narrow the question to simply “should we go public or private?” is to ignore the unique qualities that every school has. When push comes to shove, the most important factor in a child’s education is how it is pursued, and if it is effective.