Enrollment Down at Many Private Schools

This year students at Covenant Christian School have a few less classmates than last year. School officials say a lot of it can be attributed to the economy.

Headmaster Rick Robertson says the Association of Christian Schools in Florida in general is down about 15 percent in enrollment. Covenant Christian is down about five percent, but expecting a bigger hit next year.

"Within Bay County we haven't been hit quite as hard as some other schools in the panhandle, but we're looking at probably 10 to 15 percent for 2009-2010," said Rick Robertson.

Panama City Christian School officials say they've seen a 15 percent decrease in enrollment. St. John Catholic School has also taken a hit.

"It's an excellent place, very good teachers and students are really nice, very nice parents. But sometimes in economic hard times like we're having it gets to the point, like one said, 'What I'm going to have to use the money for now is to pay my mortgage,' " said Dr. Kathy Kidd with St. John Catholic School.

For those who can afford it, administrators say there are benefits to shelling out money for tuition.

"Granted we don't have all the facilities some of the other schools have, the middle schools have, we're able to do other things like line design and German and Spanish and knitting and those kind of things the students can learn to do in addition to a very strict and stringent curriculum," said Dr. Kidd.

Some private schools like St. John and Covenant Christian offer scholarship or need-based help, but most of those funds come from the operating budget, so it's impossible to help everyone.

Re-enrollment for most private schools takes place in February and March. At that time administrators should have a better idea of how many students they'll have next year.

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