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Public Vs. Private Vs. Something In Between: How COVID-19 Affects School Choice

Back-to-school season during COVID-19 comes with unique challenges.
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There has always been a debate between public and private schools, but new health considerations such as class size and adequate sanitization have been added into the mix.

Increased Inquiries at Private Schools

Private schools across the country have been fielding an increase in calls regarding the 2020/2021 school year. Parents are primarily concerned with large class sizes in the public system as well as the lack of resources available if school returns to in-home learning. Some private schools report that new family inquiries are up by 20%.

Private schools typically have smaller class sizes than those in public schools, which many parents find reassuring in regards to the spread of COVID-19. These private school also maintained the routine of a school day when classes were conducted remotely, something which many families struggled with in public school.

Private Learning Pods

A new type of school is popping up across the country, which have been dubbed ‘pandemic learning pods’ or ‘micro-schools.’ Parents come together to hire a private teacher, organize a small space, and create a learning environment specifically for a small group of children. Some of these students remain connected to their public schools.

The idea behind these learning pods is that parents can limit the number of people within their cohort by carefully selecting a small number of students for their children to spend their school time with. Parents can return to work knowing that their children are staying safe and receiving quality education. These customized learning environments cost parents between $500 and $2,000 per month, per child.

Implications on the Public System

When parents opt their children out of the public school systems, those schools face an overall reduction in revenue as public schools are generally funded on a per student basis. Some call this a slippery slope towards a two-tier, income-based access to quality education. Parents who cannot afford to send their kids to private school or create their own learning pods and must work outside of the house are left with little choice. They must send their children to public school, regardless of the threat of COVID-19. Some parents are worried that the pandemic will amplify a system that is already struggling to maintain equality for all students.

Most Kids Headed Back to School

Whether it is to public schools, private schools or pandemic learning pods, a recent study shows that most parents were planning on sending their kids back to school at the start of the new semester. The study, by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies, showed that 63% of parents polled were planning on sending their children back to class even though 66% of them had concerns about that decision.

As with everything related to COVID-19, there are no certainties whether in-class instruction will continue uninterrupted or if there will be another surge in virus cases.





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