Some private school enrollment gains from the pandemic

“The state has to really get gears in motion"
Posted at 6:29 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 18:29:22-04

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Some parents have enrolled their children in private schools because they’re not waiting for New York State to give the okay for five-day a week learning for September.

School superintendents cannot make decisions for the new school year until they receive official guidance from the state and some are frustrated as they wait for word.

Parents are sharing that frustration.

Jamie Kelly, parent.

“The state has to really get gears in motion and start making decisions,” replied Jamie Kelly, parent.

Kelly, of Amherst, moved her twin sons out of the Williamsville Central School District last September. They are now in 5th grade here at Nichols School in Buffalo.

Kelly's older son, who is 16, was already attending Nichols.

Because many of the private and Catholic schools have smaller enrollment, they were able to provide five-day a week, in-person learning and follow the state's classroom capacity rules.

Kelly says for her two younger sons, remote learning, while in the Williamsville Schools, was too difficult.

“This isn't going to be good for my family. They were not getting anything out of the virtual school,” explained Kelly.

nichols 1 .jpg
Outside the Nichols School campus in Buffalo.

The state has not issued new guidance for the next school year, leaving districts unable to tell parents if they can resume, full-in-school learning in September.

“I have many neighbors and friends who have already transferred their children to catholic schools out of the Williamsville School District,” said Kelly.

Kelly says other families are now trying to get their children into private schools as well.

“Time is running out and space is limited,” Kelly declared.

At Cardinal O’Hara in the Town of Tonawanda the school has been benefiting from offering five day week , in school learning.

“Everyday I’m following up with families — following up — scheduling tours — scheduling shadow days,” responded Thomas Wilkie, director of recruitment, Cardinal O’Hara High School.

Wilkie says they are getting more families from public schools and enrollment has increased over the last year.

Students at Cardinal O’Hara in the Town of Tonawanda.

“We’re definitely ahead from last year already, so it's looking really great all the way around,” Wilkie said.

There are more than 200-students at Cardinal O’Hara. Wilkie says his school has no wait list and enough space for more students to enroll.

But the downside for public school parents making the switch to private — the cost of tuition.

Wilkie says that's why the school decided to freeze tuition at it’s current rate of $10,550.

Inside Cardinal O’Hara in the Town of Tonawanda.

”We’re not raising it at all, so trying to keep it more affordable, especially these new families who it's all new to them,” noted Wilkie.

7 Eyewitness News reached out to the New York State Health Department. A spokesperson said it is too early for a decision, but issued this statement:

“As we have from the beginning of this pandemic, we will continue to be guided by science and the facts. Schools are currently allowed to reopen at full capacity, consistent with the guidance available at []. We will continue to monitor case counts and hospitalizations, as well as regional positivity rates, to determine the safest options for students, teachers, and staff.”

Jonah Bruno
Director of Public Information, NYSDOH