Private School vs. Alternative School

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by neednewtechnique, May 4, 2008.

  1. neednewtechnique

    neednewtechnique New Member

    Our oldest difficult child is about to finish 8th grade, and despite the fact that she has failed out of 3 classes her first semester and 3 her second semester, the school has no intentions of holding her back. At first we agreed that holding her back would be the best thing for her, but then I began to realize that keeping her in 8th grade to help give her a chance to learn to handle school would only be effective if she were in a school that was actively trying to help with this. We are at a point now where we agree that holding her back and keeping her in a school that is doing nothing to help her will not make any difference and now we are exploring our options for her high school.

    There is a private school literally right across the street from my house that has come highly recommended to me. My middle child's father's girlfriend went there and she has been encouraging me to check into it and consider it as one of our options. It is a Catholic School, and I have looked at the program on their website and it looks absolutely wonderful with one small problem...we aren't Catholic. Don't get me wrong, I am very open minded and I have no problem with Catholics, I just don't know if they ALLOW students who aren't Catholic.

    The other option that has been presented is the fact that our school system here has 3 "alternative schools" that students can be admitted to. I had a conversation with my difficult child's guidance counselor because I was a little hesitant to even consider this possibility. I guess "alternative schools" get a bad reputation for being rough type places where there is a lot of drugs and violence. I really appreciated her honesty when she told me that 2 out of 3 of the options in our city lived up to that reputation quite well, being mostly for kids who have been expelled from the regular schools or have gotten behind due to being in jail and such. But then she mentioned that there was one that would be perfect for our daughter. She said the school was originally opened to help teenage girls who got pregnant so that they could finish school. The school has a daycare on site and the program is set up so that the students eat lunch with their children everyday, in reality, it is a pretty neat program. Our difficult child is not pregnant, but she said that this particular school has sort of expanded it's horizons recently and has included a program for students who have a difficult time with the regular school environment for reasons that don't show up on an IEP. She said one of their big focuses is helping these students find their motivation and desire to succeed. This is the most exciting thing I have heard in a long time, because this is EXACTLY what our difficult child is struggling with. She doesn't want to do it, becuase it is too much work and she doesn't see the point. She has no motivation or desire to do well. Her guidance counselor wants to submit her information to them for consideration.

    My battle is trying to ensure that our decision is the right one for her, now and in the future. Of course, both schools have their pros and cons. On the positive sides, the private school is very structured and disciplined, which she needs, but the alternative school is more nurturing and understanding, which she also needs. On the con side, the private school follows a set of beliefs that my daughter does not know or understand, and the alternative school, although this one isn't the typical one, we must consider the reputation in general.

    I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts???????
  2. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    If it were me, I would visit both schools and meet with admin and teachers- at least once. I have read that BiPolar (BP) kids don't achieve their best in a school environment where other kids have major behavior problems. Also, that private schools don't do as much for accommodating special educational needs. As far as the alternative school, my first question would be HOW do you motivate them (ie, do they use contracts for behavior modification, therapuetic strategies - if so what type, etc); then - do they get a full day of education; what percentage typically go back to mainstream; do they have other students with mood ddisorders. No matter if you can live with the answers or not, at least you would be making an informed decision.
  3. LittleDudesMom

    LittleDudesMom Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I share many of klmno's opinions. You can't make a decison about a school until you make the visits. You need to go and sit in on some classes and meet the administrators to get a real feel for what the philiosophy is of the school and what an average day will be like for your daughter. Don't go on some predetermined visiting day - go on a regular school day so it's real.

    As far as the Catholic school, I've never known one that doesn't take students of all denominations - you may pay more than a student who is a member of their sponsoring parish, but that's normal.

    Only thing I would say about most private schools (meaning parochial) is there is often not funding or training for special needs kids.

    I would visit yourself and ask a lot of "what ifs" at both schools and then take your daughter for a little visit as well.

  4. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    As the others said, visit and visit again. Make it short notice and stay all day if you can.

    While I agree that private schools don't have the funding and requirement to treat special needs, I think sometimes just the smaller classes and inherently different qualities of the school and teachers make all the difference that some kids need, so don't count it out based on that...just be aware.
  5. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I would definitely visit both schools. I would worry at hte Catholic school because your daughter is not Cath, and may be not treated well by the other girls. I ahve seen this happen, as recently as a few years ago when my cousin was in Cath high school.

    I would also worry if being in a program for pregnant girls would encourage your daughter to become preg? NOT the teachers or staff, but the other kids, or just seeing all the babies. It would be a concern.

    I would also wonder about accomodations at the Cath school, and at the alt school. You just have to visit, ask, and see what you see.

    I DO know of Cath schools that won't take a non-Cath student, or will be far harder on any problems with a non-Cath student than a Catholic one. So ASK, ASK ASK,. It is all you CAN do.

    Sending hugs,

  6. Nancy

    Nancy Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I struggled with this decision myself. I so wanted my difficult child to go to a private catholic school because of the discipline and structure and the peers she would be with. My difficult child is very influenced by peer pressure and will go along with anything her friends do and so it was important to make sure her friends would be good influences. However I was also very concerned abou the level of work that is required (my husband and I both went to private catholic high schools) and I knew that those four years would be nothing but fighting over schoolwork and grades. I was also concerned that she would get kicked out for some of her behaviors.

    In the end I opted for the public school although many times I wish that I had bitten the bullet and sent her to the private school. Freshman year she was immediately attracted to the kids who lived on the edge and we had quite an interesting year with police and court dates.

    I agree that you should visit both schools, I think you will know when you do that which environment is best for your difficult child. In our area you do not have to be catholic to go to a catholic high school. I have known many non catholics who sent their children to catholic schools and they have all be pleased with the experience.

  7. skeeter

    skeeter New Member

    My oldest went to Catholic high school (parochial, not private - parochial are ones that are affiliated with feeder parishes, private are not). About 25% of his school was not Catholic - and there was no difference in the way the guys were treated (it was an all boys school).
    There may be issues with fulfilling special needs, however, as already stated.
    My youngest is going to a public school - but a magnet school that you need to test to get into. The main problem with our Catholic high schools are they are VERY sports oriented (often winning the state football championship) and my youngest is NOT sports oriented at all. My oldest was ok by doing cross country and track.
  8. trinityroyal

    trinityroyal Well-Known Member

    I agree with the recommendations of the others. Visit, visit and visit again.
    If you get the chance, drop by unexpectedly and see if you can walk around.

    Ask lots of questions. If you can, have your difficult child accompany you on at least one of the visits so that you can see how she reacts to the schools, the other students, etc.

    Each place has merits, and each one has drawbacks. Only by getting as much exposure as you can, will you know whether either one is right for your daughter.
  9. Christy

    Christy New Member

    Good luck with your decision. Be sure before enrolling in a private school, that the school is aware of your child's special needs and behavioral issues. Private schools do not have to accomadate and support iep goals. They can also expel a child based on behavior or other violations of their school rules. Many schools with "good reptations" do not deal with difficult students. The public school systems, while they have their faults, must provide everyone with an education. Private schools do not.
  10. smallworld

    smallworld Moderator

    My son is in 9th grade at a small progressive private (NOT parochial) school. Because he has emotional shutdown that interferes with getting classwork and homework done (yes, it looks as if he isn't motivated, but in reality his mood swings get in the way), he is not being offered a place for 10th grade. As others have mentioned, private schools often don't make special accommodations for children with special needs. And they can dismiss at will any child who does not live up to the school's expectations.

    We are currently in the process of looking at various public school programs in our county school district, where he will be guaranteed a safety net. Like your difficult child, ours would not do well in a program with kids that exhibit external behaviors. The program we are leaning toward provides self-contained classes when students are struggling, but allows mainstream classes when they are doing better. It also focuses on executive function skills and schoolwork/homework production.

    Good luck with your decision. There are no simple solutions.
  11. neednewtechnique

    neednewtechnique New Member

    I have spoken to both schools and I am in the process of setting up first appointments. I know time is running out, so we don't have much of it left. I have heard a LOT of concern here about the nature of private schools in general and how she will be viewed by peers and the sports, and behaviors, and IEP's and all of that. I guess I should mention a few things about the school, such as that it is a VERY SMALL private school. This year's graduating class is TWO girls. On one hand, I like this, because it is almost like she will go through high school with nearly one-on-one attention, which I think would help her a great deal. Also, I don't worry so much about her at the alternative school, yes being around all the babies might be a concern for some parents, but my difficult child has HUGE trust issues with guys, she does not like them at all, does not have any interest in them whatsoever. In fact, she has a, um, girlfriend that she has been "seeing" for several months now, and my husband and I still aren't really sure what to think of that, which brings up a whole other subject that we can talk any one else's difficult child's here explore alternative lifestyle relationships?????

    Anyway, as far as the school thing goes, I have been given great recommendations from a graduate of the Catholic school, plus it is right across the street from my house. I have used the schools feature on myspace to locate a few graduates of this alternative school to see what they have to say about it, and I have not yet received any responses, but I am hopeful that I will soon! As for the IEP situation, our difficult child does not have one, and since her mood swings and behavior problems don't emerge at school, she does not qualify for it. I wish she did, but somehow every time we try, she is said to not be in need of services because "her problems are under control at school".......
  12. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Gosh Skeeter, I went to a parochial school and never knew the difference until I read your note, LOL!

    NNT, the school will definitely let your child in. They aren't worried about religion in that regard. What they will be concerned about--and you should be as well--is her appropriate grade placement, since she's been passed on to upper grades but hasn't mastered the material in all of the classes. I don't know how much slack they'll cut her in that regard.
    The student-to-teacher ratio will probably be better, as will the discipline/attention/autonomous decisionmaking vs generic board rules.

    Our difficult child won't make it into the private upper school from the feeder school he's in now. It's college prep and they push, push, push. Works well for our easy child but difficult child just shuts off. So we're looking into the local Catholic school, too. They teach religion every day. I'm not excited about that--I'm still burned out from my elementary and HS days, although I did get an excellent education--but another mom told me that they have a lot of non-Catholics in that school so they get around it by focusing on historical aspects and placement of indiv. bible readings, rather than force feeding faith. Sounds like a good idea to me! (In fact, I might still be Catholic now if I hadn't had some of that force feeding, but that's for another note.) :)

    Let us know what you think after you've had your tours.