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Private schools prosper

Alternative academic programs thrive as local districts face budget cuts

Posted: February 14, 2009 12:21 a.m.
Updated: February 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Trinity Classical Academy third-grader Benjamin McGillicuddy, right, reads aloud in front of his class Thursday. The private school is seeing an increase in applications as public schools face budget cuts and layoffs.

As local public school districts prepare for unprecedented budget cuts, Santa Clarita Valley's private schools are thriving despite a contracting economy.

Santa Clarita Christian School had a 10-percent increase in enrollment from the 2007-08 to the 2008-09 school year and now has about 600 students.

"It's one of the biggest jumps we've ever had," said Derek Swales, Santa Clarita Christian School principal. "Our final product is our student's character and their ability to work in the workplace. We are making a difference in their lives and in the community."

At Legacy Christian Academy, the sluggish economy created a slight impact on the kindergarten through seventh-grade school.

"I think the economy is having an impact. I think it's more skepticism about the future than actually losing a job," said Tim Borruel, superintendent of Legacy Christian Academy.

The school has 364 students and school officials will add an eighth-grade for the 2009-10 school year, he said.

The projected enrollment for the 2009-10 year should be at 384, he said.

The school plans to build a comprehensive high school in three to five years.

The waiting list for the kindergarten classes typically runs between 40 and 50 and is now in the 20s.

"It's less strong than in the past. There's still quite a demand for what we're providing," he said.

Parents will continue to be drawn to what Legacy offers.

"I think we offer a really quality academic program and we offer it in a distinctively Christian environment," he said.

Enrollment numbers at Trinity Classical Academy in Newhall are on the rise.

The K-9 school has 230 students for the 2008-09 school year and expects to have 300 students for the 2009-10 school year.

The school is also seeing a rise in the number of people who want to teach at Trinity.

"I can't keep up with the applications for people who want to work here," said Liz Caddow, head of school.

Students will attend a new 44,000-square-foot campus part of NorthPark Community Church's new building for the 2009-10 school year.

Officials plan to apply for a California Interscholastic Federation membership for sports and will add a 10th-grade class next year.

Through its classical Christian education approach to teaching, Trinity officials hope to mold students into articulate young adults who can become leaders.

"This is the most common sense approach to education there is," Caddow said.

Marian Salazar enrolled her three children at Trinity to expose them to the school's classical Christian teaching style.

"For us as Christians, it's very important to us that it was a Christian world view that our children were being educated in," she said.

"I think that at the elementary school age, you're really forming them and teaching them," she said.

She said Trinity's rigorous academic standards and classical teachings will make her children succeed.

"I think the education they will get will allow them to thrive in any circumstance," she said.

Her 9-year-old daughter Nina is a fourth-grader at Trinity.

She enjoys her school, especially because of the upcoming Middle Ages fair, where students will dress up as medieval characters.

Nina has only 20 students in her fourth-grade class.

"You can ask questions and there's lots of time, and the teacher is never too busy," she said.

Michele Coombe's son attended at a local public elementary school until she decided to enroll him at Trinity Classical Academy for fourth-grade.

"I wanted to feel like I was on the same page with the parents and what we're telling our kids," Coombe said. "I just started to think, ‘What do I want my kids' ‘normal' to be?'"

Coombe said her decision was more proactive than reactive and revolves around her desire to have her son attend a Christian school, even though her husband is a Bowman High School teacher.

Since beginning at Trinity, her son has taken an interest in basketball for the first time.

"I was afraid but I believe this is where God wants us. He's done really, really well," she said.

The small class sizes are a plus.

"He would have been in a class size of 34 kids. I love that he's in a class the size of his kinderg
arten class," Coombe said.

Even with a tough economy, Coombe wants her son to keep attending Trinity.

"I'm willing to scale back and work our budget differently because it's worth it," she said.

"For me, I can't even imagine going back now."


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