Local News

Mom 'would scrub floors' to keep kids in private school

Posted February 12, 2009 7:02 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Many people are pinching pennies these days, but many, like Janine James, also say there is one thing they are not willing to give up: private school for their children.

“I really would do whatever I had to do. I would scrub floors if necessary,” said James, whose son Clarence attends Cardinal Gibbons High School.

While 120,000 students dropped from private schools nationwide this school year, officials at several Triangle institutions reported that their open houses have been full of interested families.

That doesn't mean local families aren't struggling to pay, however.

Tuition at Cardinal Gibbons is $8,100 a year for Catholic students and $11,440 for non-Catholics. Principal Jason Curtis said he gets about four money-related calls a week.

“We get them ... from parents who have unfortunately either lost jobs or their employment situation may be a tenuous,” Curtis said. "Their first thought is about their family and their children and they want to know what possibilities there are to make sure that their children stay here.”

As money dries up for families, many private schools are stepping in to keep students from walking out the schoolhouse doors.

“Sometimes it’s a matter of stretching out the payments or a matter of a grant that they might need immediately,” Curtis said.

The Duke School in Durham, where tuition is about $13,500, increased its financial aid budget about 25 percent and created a six-figure recession grant.

“(The grant is) for families who had material changes in their economic situation to write to the school, explain those situations and then we work with them to try to make an arrangement,” said Dave Michelman, head of the Duke School.

Nearly 20 parents have called about the grant, and about 50 have sought financial aid, he said.

Many parents say private school is an expense they are willing to pay, regardless of the economy.

“To me, providing them an environment where they learn spirituality and get comfortable with it, as well as getting a good academic foundation, is important,” James said.