South Carolina private school enrollment spikes; families unhappy with public schools’ handling of the pandemic

Making The Grade

HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) – South Carolina private schools are reporting a spike in enrollment as several public school families react to their school’s handling of the pandemic.

The Riddel’s are an Horry County family who moved four of their children from Horry County public schools to private schools.

Ashley Riddel is among several parents making the switch to private education for their children in hopes of finding some stability.

“I’m starting back to work now, but wasn’t working at the time,” Riddel said. “I stayed home because my husband travels for work. At that time, he was out of town working, and it was a lot, they were getting these crazy packets sent home.”

Private school enrollment across the state is up an estimated 2-3%, according to the South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA).

More than half a dozen local private schools across Horry and Georgetown Counties report anywhere from a 5-45% increase in enrollment.

Low Country Preparatory School in Pawleys Island jumped from 176 to 248 students (~41% increase) this school year.

They’re not the only school.

Risen Christ Christian Academy, Myrtle Beach Christian Academy. St. Michaels, St. Andrews have enrolled more students too. Since August, the majority of these private schools have been operating on a 5-day face-to-face learning model.

Private education has benefitted Riddel’s four students, but she says it comes with a hefty cost.

“It’s a huge financial commitment, and you have to make choices and decisions, then, not to do other things,” Riddel said.

One of the biggest challenges with virtual learning is the inability to offer interaction with toys, physical games, human interaction with classmates or teachers, all of which some parents believe their child needs to build foundational skills leading to success.

Riddel said she quickly noticed a difference in behavior when her students switched from a hybrid/virtual model to a private school.

“They come home and have structure. That’s the biggest thing. Children need structure, and I talk with friends who have their children home, and not only are they losing it, the children are losing it. They said they’re failing. Parents feel like they are not getting what they need to get and that they are going to be behind,” Riddel said.

While only 22% of South Carolina’s public school districts started the school year with full-time in-person instruction, nearly all 130 private schools apart of the South Carolina Independent School Association (SCISA) welcomed students back to the classroom face-to-face.

Riddel says she’s one of several Horry County parents who have found the switch to be beneficial.

“It goes out of the classroom, and you see differences in their behavior and how they behave too in the public setting. You know they learn manners when they’re in school, they learn to sit, and practice those social etiquette manners, because kids in school learning to sit still 8 hours a day, lose that,” Riddel said.

News13 spoke with private school parents saying every student gets their temperature checked before walking into school.

While enrollment is going up, parents said most of their schools had found a way to make class sizes smaller so fewer people are in the room.

So far, Riddel says her children’s private school has not had a single positive case at school.

For more info on the SCISA, click here.

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