In today’s competitive job market, parents know that a quality education can help guarantee their children a secure future. With this in mind, an increasing number of parents are seeking educational choices that give them an active role in how and what their children are taught.
Regardless of the circumstances, relocating to a new area is a stressful event. For families with children, the stress level can be multiplied by uncertainty about the educational climate. In many cases, information about an area’s public school system is readily available on the Internet or in relocation guides, but the same information concerning private or independent schools can be a bit more elusive.
The Charleston, S.C. area has a proud history of outstanding independent school. Some of them, such as Ashley Hall and Bishop England, have been educating Lowcountry children since the early 1900’s. Others have been established more recently, with the growing influx of people relocating to the tri-county area fueling a substantial rise in the number of independent schools now serving the educational needs of pre-school, kindergarten, grade school and high school children throughout the region.
Parents choose independent schools for many reasons. “Independent schools give parents a choice. We are different than public schools, with different goals and ideas,” says Jill Hiers, executive director of the Charles Towne Montessori School.
Most independent schools focus on a specific academic or religious mission and almost all offer smaller classes than those found in public schools. This equates to a lower student to teacher ratio, a stronger teacher and parent commitment and more personalized attention for each student. For example, the average class size at Porter-Gaud is only 14 students.
Some institutions have grown to include daycare for children as young as 12 months, extended after-school care for students of working parents and summer camp programs.
Unlike private schools of the past, today’s independent institutions offer more than just reading, writing and arithmetic. A wide and varied number of extracurricular activities, from band and choir to all types of athletic programs and even cheerleading camps, are being offered on most independent school campuses. “Our baseball team won the 2A South Carolina state championship this year,” says Phyllis Beach, a spokeswoman at Northside Christian School.
Since independent schools are self-supporting, they must charge tuition and other fees. But because cost is a factor for some families, many schools offer scholarships, tuition rates based on a family’s ability to pay, flexible payment plans and discounts for families that have more than one child at the school.
The Lowcountry is now home to more than 100 independent schools, giving parents a wide variety of educational opportunities. Located throughout Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties, all are within an easy commute, and some even offer transportation.