Making the right choice
October 4, 2022
When choosing a private school in the Charlotte area, parents are fortunate to have plenty of options. Deciding which one is the best fit for their child is an important one, both educationally and financially. In Mecklenburg County, more than 19,500 students were enrolled in its 96 private schools in the 2021-22 school year*. We’ve partnered with several private schools to share helpful information and tips when considering a private-school choice.
*Source: The N.C. Department of Administration, July 2022
Mission, core values & school snapshot
Finding the right private school for your child requires research. Start by looking at schools’ websites and social-
media accounts. Talk with people whose children attend private schools. Consider each school’s mission and key values and
whether those align with your family’s.
Weigh other factors, such as tuition and size, keeping in mind that smaller and larger schools each have benefits. Private school is an investment in your child’s future, so it’s necessary to factor in value as well as cost. Does the school offer different payment plans or financial assistance? Learn logistically what’s available, in terms of transportation and before- and after-school programs. How does the school foster an inclusive, welcoming environment for all students? Gather basic facts about history, leadership and enrollment. Consider faculty-to-student ratios, faculty experience and retention rates for staff and students.
Calvary Christian Academy, for example, leverages a 14:2 student-to-teacher ratio to deliver a Christ-centered and relationship-driven academic experience. “Our students are routinely challenged through experiential curriculum and individualized instruction to inspire academic excellence and a love of learning,” says Head of School Troy Moore. Charlotte Latin’s spacious campus includes 128 acres of green grass, covered walkways and first-class facilities. “We use every bit of it as a part of a student’s complete educational experience,” says Susan Carpenter, director of marketing and communications. The school’s mission is to encourage individual development and civility in students by inspiring them to learn and serve others and by offering growth-promoting opportunities. “While Latin has high expectations for our students, we believe in educating the whole child and in providing a balanced learning environment that promotes the growth of each student’s mind, body and spirit,” she says.
Private schools offer strong academics, which is often a top priority for parents. Schools have varied approaches to curriculums and instructional models and a wide array of resources to support students along their educational journey. Learn how technology is used and more about STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) programs. Global studies and international travel opportunities, college counseling and advisory systems for students offer tremendous paths for growth and success. Consider what your child needs to succeed and whether the school can support this.
“Charlotte Prep is a school where students can stay children a little longer and become leaders a little sooner,” says Head of School Chris Marblo. The curriculum inspires creative problem-solving and instills vigorous critical thought, he says. Teachers know students not only by name, but by personal narrative, and connect learning to their own lives, interests and strengths to the world. “Prep left me incredibly ready for the next step into high school,” says one former student. “And later, I was so thankful for that transition from Charlotte Prep to high school because it equipped me to handle the process of applying to and picking a college. I already had that experience handling choices and change.”
Students at Palisades Episcopal School enjoy hands-on STEAM learning opportunities in and out of the classroom, with over 85 off-campus experiences offered annually across all grades. “As an Episcopal school, we believe in challenging minds, inspiring individuality and creativity, building character and creating community,” says Head of School Kerin Hughes. “A Palisades Episcopal education ensures that students of all ages experience learning by visiting aquariums, equestrian centers, botanical gardens, nature preserves, museums, libraries, performing arts and cultural centers, gleaning farms, historic sites, local businesses and various community-service organizations, creating graduates who are not only academically prepared for high school and beyond but also lifelong learners who know how to connect their heads to their hearts.”
Arts, athletics and other extracurricular programs
You’ll find vibrant arts programs in private schools, inspiring students to stretch their imaginations and tap into creativity. Discover what’s available in visual and digital arts, music, theater, and dance, as well as other extracurricular opportunities.
The British International School has a performing-arts collaboration with the renowned Juilliard School, offering students first-class learning experiences and instruction in music, dance and drama. It also provides teachers with high-level professional training and personal-development opportunities. More than 60 different extracurricular and after-school activities are available to students.
Athletic teams and programs extend learning beyond the classroom and allow students to experience teamwork, sportsmanship, competition and school spirit. Find out what teams, clubs and classes are available at each school. Approximately 85% of Charlotte Latin students in grades 7-12 participate in at least one sport. The school offers 66 sports at the varsity, junior varsity, middle school and club levels.
Student life & community outreach
Many private school campuses are like those you might see when touring a small college: There’s a buzz of activity, and students and staff dot the landscape. In addition to important factors such as safety and dining options, ask about parent involvement, summer programs and community-service opportunities. Private schools often excel in this area by facilitating service hours and projects that help students understand, appreciate and support their community and the world around them.
A quarterly seminar program at Saint Mary’s School, an all-girls, college-preparatory high school in Raleigh, provides real-world opportunities to partner with area organizations and learn more about themes like social impact and health and wellness.
At Carmel Christian, service is emphasized at every grade level, with high school students required to participate in a January Term experience, spending up to a week exploring their passions through local and global missions, internships, college tours, and trips with a language-immersion or academic focus. “As a Christian school, we strive to live out the commandment in Matthew 22 stating ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’” says Gwen Bennett, executive director of advancement. “We prioritize service to those nearest, our neighbors and the nations.”
Questions to ask when visiting a private school
One of the best ways to get to know a school is by visiting. Schedule a tour and interview and attend information sessions. Have your child spend the day at the school. Some questions to consider on a visit:
- What’s a typical day like?
- What innovative programs and amenities differentiate the school? What is the school most proud of?
- How does the school help new students transition
- to the school?
- How does the institution foster school spirit and a
- sense of community?
- What does the school do to prepare students for the
- next chapter after they graduate?
- How does the school teach students to embrace
- differences and respect the stories of others?
- What are the school’s memberships and affiliations (such as the National Association of Independent Schools), and what is its accreditation status?