Area private schools report progress

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Despite challenging economic times, most of the private school officials in Dougherty county feel confident about the future.

Deerfield-Windsor School, which currently has a total of 830 students at both campuses, has seen some progress made during the last school year and intends to expand on that into 2012.

Although, that progress will not likely impact attendance. "With the economy the way it is, we are hopeful to just remain steady," said Cary Stoudenmire, director of the Lower School.

The Middle/Upper School is just barely below its high, said Will Kesler, the campus' director.

This summer, both campuses are expected to undergo $1.5 million worth of renovations, including lighting and floor covering replacements, drainage work, placing a track, remodeling art rooms and surfacing the tennis courts.

It is so much work that officials admit there is a possibility of having to get an early start. "We may possibly do (some of) it over spring break with night crews out," Kesler said.

A lot of these projects have been a long time coming. "The lighting, the flooring. ... it's been a long time since those things have been replaced," Stoudenmire said.

Some projects, such as fixing leaky skylights, simply make current and potential students proud to be there.

"One way we want to demonstrate our excellence is through facilities," Kesler said.

The Lower School, located on Beattie Road, saw improvements in its Spanish and music programs during the last school year -- and has seven promethean boards to its name. The staff has been able to make some updates to the playground's infrastructure and add a technology teacher to its ranks.

Deerfield's Middle School, housed on Nottingham Way, recently made preparations to reconfigure the class schedule to allow for shorter periods. In so doing, the staff was able to incorporate Spanish into this year's schedule along with the addition of two instructors for the subject.

The Upper School, also located on Nottingham Way, recently added a designated college counselor to its staff. In the meantime, the staff has gained access to several promethean boards to help with daily instruction -- and NetClassroom is being used by students and parents to check homework requirements and stay informed on classroom performance.

"There has been a lot of talk about 21st-century education. ... What do these students need to be ready?" Kesler said. "We are having to be more creative and more imaginative. We have to serve some jobs and college curriculums that don't exist yet."

While that was going on, the student newspaper -- The Excelsior -- managed to get off the ground. The staff of the publication has been using iPads to assist them in creating the product. Meanwhile, the Builders Club -- a community service organization -- has gained representation at the school.

At present, the Middle/Upper School has 40 teachers, while the Lower School has 30. Officials say they don't anticipate any new faculty openings, but that may change.

"We are just starting the process of planning for next year," Kesler said. "We send out contracts in April."

The tuition at Deerfield-Windsor is $4,013 for Pre-K, $5,814 for kindergarten, $8,504 for the Lower School (grades 1-5), $9,394 for the Middle School (grades 6-8) and $9,884 for the Upper School (grades 9-12) for those wishing to pay in full by Aug. 1.

Officials say they expect tuition to increase slightly. "The tuition goes up each year," Kesler said.

The average annual increase has been 5 percent over the last 10 years. Tuition assistance is available, the amount of which is dependent on the financial records the parents provide.

"Everyone has to pay something," said Laurie Allen, the schools communications/development director. "Nobody will go for free."

Open enrollment will begin Monday to start accepting new students.

"We always get excited about the anticipation of a new school year," Stoudenmire said.

Sherwood Christian Academy, while at full capacity in terms of staffing, still has some room to grow as far as space. For the time being though, officials there expect to remain stable.

"With the economy it will be a challenge, but we are confident we will have a base," said Headmaster Glen Schultz. "We are budgeting for stable enrollment.

"We are fully staffed to meet our needs, but if we need to add on, we have space. We feel we have a strong staff. I don't think we'll add unless growth dictates it."

Between the elementary and secondary campuses, there are currently 50 teachers working at Sherwood.

In terms of development, Sherwood will be cutting the ribbon on a new fieldhouse on the Old Pretoria Road campus in March. Once open, it will allow access to a weight room and one classroom as well as locker facilities.

"It is really a completion of the Legacy Park the church has been building for five or six years," Schultz said. "It gives us the ability to do things with our students."

With the economic times as they are, Sherwood has been primarily focusing on strengthening existing programs, but there was something new that started this year -- a dual enrollment program in cooperation with Truett-McConnell College.

"(It allows students to) gain college as well as high school credit," Schultz said. "We feel students can attain six to 12 (college) credits.

"It enhances (the students') ability to move on to college."

In the meantime, Sherwood has also been upgrading classroom technology -- specifically through the obtainment of promethean boards.

"It has enhanced learning, and we hope to expand that into more classrooms," Schultz said. "We are striving to keep up.

"I have been here six years, and I am about to start my seventh. When I see what (Christian schooling) does to students' lives, it gets me excited about the next year. God has set the stage for us. There are challenges, but challenges always present great opportunity for ministry."

Early re-enrollment is expected to take place through mid-March. The student body currently numbers at about 500, a level which it has remained at for the past few years. In terms of tuition, the high schoolers' parents are currently paying $6,150 -- which has potential to change.

"That is one of the things we are formulating. We will try to keep it as minimal of an increase as possible," Schultz said. "There won't be a large increase if there is one."

Byne Christian School has felt the impact of the economy as its counterparts have -- which is why it has chosen not to increase tuition.

"To assist parents during this difficult time, we have chosen to leave our tuition at the same level for the 2011-12 school year," said Headmaster David Bess. "Scholarship assistance is available for qualified students."

Byne's current enrollment is 82, 17 percent higher than the school had initially budgeted for, Bess said. The tuition for K-4 and K-5 is $3,870 for the whole day and $3,510 for half a day. For students in grades 1-12, tuition is $4,710. Discounts are available for multiple children.

At this time, officials with Byne say there are no construction projects planned on the campus during the upcoming year.

"Because the facility is so modern and spacious, there is not any need to add on to the building," Bess said.

As far as projects recently completed are concerned, there have been areas of the school's interior that were repainted this year. The campus encompasses 125,000 square feet.

Byne, a school in which the student-to-teacher ratio is 10:1, is also focusing on strengthening current programs -- although, there is one officials are expecting to soon add.

"We are currently planning the addition of an elementary football program (for 2011-12)," Bess said.