The onset of COVID-19 threw a wrench in the normalcy of K-12 schooling, whether it be public or private institutions. For those in public schools, where taxpayer dollars, around $15,000 per pupil, are used to fund acceptance, the threat of returning to a school that no longer exists isn’t on the radar. It’s not the same for those enrolled in private schools.
The majority of private schools are rather middle of the road regarding price per child and have no local endowments. This means that the entirety of private school funding comes from each pupil’s tuition costs and fundraising efforts. For religious schools, which raise funds through donations at worship services, money is getting increasingly more difficult to come by. Subsequently, schools that barely squeak by are beginning to close all together. More than 107 private schools across the nation are closing their doors, predominantly in lower-income neighborhoods like parts of Baltimore, MD; this puts 16,000+ students, more than 15 percent of whom are black, without a school to return to.
For the most part, these private schools have set tuition between $14,500 and $17,000 and are still being forced to close. With COVID-19 relief packages favoring public schooling institutions, private schools are relegated to for-profit and non-profit status and not applicable for most types of federal funding. This lack of concrete procedure also allows certain schools to proceed with in-class instruction while public schools are still teaching virtually. Of North Carolina’s 141-page guidebook on reopening public schools, the only mention of private school reintroduction is a paragraph on the website which reads, “It is the discretion of each private school to decide how to proceed with instruction.”
Hundreds of North Carolina private schools are resuming lessons with the added twist of entrance temperature probes, lunch rotations, and waivers. Some are not instituting mask mandates or in-person limitations but are equipping teachers to send virtual lesson plans to those who choose to learn from home.
For one Pre-K-7 NC private school though, precautionary measures weren’t enough and parents had to be notified days after reopening, when a staff member tested positive on a Monday. A spokeswoman told The News & Observer that the classrooms would be disinfected, and the school would resume in-person classes that Friday; less than a week later, students and staff, 16 or so of whom had been in direct contact with the infected staff member, would be allowed back to class.
Without an advantage in funding given to public schools and an inherent lack of private schools to choose from, sending a child back to school, whether it be in-person or virtually, may take a great deal of research.