What to Know When Choosing a Private School

Missing an open house doesn't mean the opportunity to visit the school is lost, and getting enrolled by early spring can guarantee your child a spot.

Private school registration for the 2013-14 school year is underway, and parents are scrambling to find the best private schools.

Dawn McComb, principal of Brookfield Academy’s Rochester Hills Campus, part of Michigan’s first Montessori school, said parents who visit at open houses often come prepared with specific questions.

“Parents are often very interested in the curriculum at the school. They want to know teacher-to-student ratio. They want to know about tuition,” she said.

Other FAQs asked are:

  • What are the after-school programs?
  • Are there uniforms and what’s their cost?
  • What are the school’s timings?
  • Is there childcare?
  • What’s the longevity of the staff?
  • What are the facilities?
  • What’s the class size?

Brookfield Academy has four campuses in Michigan: West Bloomfield, Troy, Livonia and Rochester Hills. McComb said parents interested in enrolling their children at Brookfield Academy for preschool should fill out the enrollment agreement and pay the deposit fee.

“If it’s an elementary child, we want to set up a time for evaluation and set up a visit time,” she said.

The parents sometimes come back for individual tours, which Brookfield Academy encourages, she said.

“So it’s just them and the principal. It gives them the opportunity to ask personal questions that they didn’t want to ask in a group,” McComb said.

Brookfield Academy also allows parents to observe their child’s prospective classroom. Parents should check if this is the policy with other schools, she said.

“We allow students to shadow and we do private tours,” said Julie McCormick, head administrative assistant at Our Lady of Sorrows Elementary School in Farmington.

She said students at the school typically need to be enrolled by March to guarantee a spot.

What Makes Private, Religious and Montessori Schools Different

"The biggest difference between private schools and public schools is I think the smaller classes," said Amy Schlussel, director of admission at Hillel Day School in Farmington Hills.

She said they also emphasize personal development for teachers who participate in regular webinars and other training.

Schlussel said religious schools go a step further than private schools by developing students' character through the schools' core values.

"We’re giving them an identity and a self-confidence to who they are," she said. "It's beyond how they do in the classroom; it's how they are and the values they have."

Hillel Day School only accepts Jewish students, she said. Other religious schools like Mercy High School, a Catholic college preparatory school for young women, is open to students of various religious beliefs.

The Montessori philosophy focuses on the children's environment, which is designed to stimulate their interest and help facilitate understanding spontaneously with little or no adult intervention, according to Art Start Montessori Academy of Farmington Hills.

Different from other private schools, Montessori teachers often stand back while a child is working to allow the child the satisfaction of self-discovery, according to Art Start.

Parents can use online databases like Private School Search that help search for private schools in their area based on gender, religion, tuition and more. 

A number of private schools are also listed in the Farmington-Farmington Hills Patch directory:

Elementary, Middle School

  • Hillel Day School
  • Our Lady of Sorrows School
  • St. Fabian Catholic School
  • St. Paul's Lutheran School
  • The International School

High School

  • Mercy High School


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