Home BusinessEconomic News Rochester’s private schools fighting uphill economic battle to serve area students, families

Rochester’s private schools fighting uphill economic battle to serve area students, families

by Stella Morgan

Private schools in the local area are facing rising costs but are finding creative ways to provide support for their families. One such school is Hope Hall School in Gates, a private, non-sectarian school for grades three through 12. The school was founded in 1994 as an educational community for students who learn differently, such as those with central auditory processing delays and mild anxiety disorder. Samantha Standing, the school’s director of advancement, acknowledges that costs for school supplies and salaries have increased. However, the school has become more creative with fundraising and grant writing to meet the needs of its students, staff, and families. For example, the school holds an annual holiday woodworking sale to raise funds. Enrollment at Hope Hall has increased by about 10% this year, leading to a greater need for support for its families. The school offers various forms of assistance, including need-based scholarships, holiday support for food and meals, and a food and personal hygiene pantry called Linda’s Cupboard. Standing emphasizes the strong sense of community at Hope Hall, which extends beyond graduation, and appreciates the support from businesses that donate to Linda’s Cupboard.

Holy Cross School in Rochester is another private school facing similar challenges. The school’s principal, Thomas (TJ) Verzillo, notes that families are now facing tighter budgets and sometimes have to make difficult decisions regarding financing a private Catholic education. The number of families applying for financial aid at Holy Cross has increased, even though the demographics of the school have remained consistent. Verzillo explains that the school’s costs have also increased, particularly in salaries, as the school aims to remain competitive in the local market for Catholic school teachers. The school relies on funding from the Diocese of Rochester and the Holy Cross Parish for operating costs, while fundraising helps cover additional expenses. Holy Cross School welcomes families from all faiths and even offers a food pantry accessible to school families. The strong support from the parish and the school parent group ensures that the school remains available for families who desire a private Catholic education.

The Norman Howard School, accredited by the New York Association of Independent Schools, faces its own set of financial challenges as a special education school. Rebecca Ferri, the school’s director of development and communications, emphasizes the importance of a diverse range of funding sources. The school organizes creative fundraisers, such as a community cornhole tournament, and receives support from the Education Success Foundation and engaged partners, including alumni and their families. Additionally, the school benefits from a strong and flexible board of directors and support from community organizations and businesses. The Norman Howard School also benefits from parents who successfully advocate for their children to be placed at the school by their home school district, relieving families of tuition and transportation costs. Through fundraising efforts, the school offers the Student Success Project, providing complimentary case reviews to determine if accepted students should receive district funding. Need-based financial aid is also available for students who are privately placed by their parents or guardians. Rosemary Hodges, the school’s director of education, acknowledges the commitment of parents to their children’s education and emphasizes the school’s supportive and consistent environment.

Despite the rising costs faced by local private schools, such as Hope Hall School, Holy Cross School, and the Norman Howard School, they have found ways to provide support for their families through creative fundraising, community collaboration, and a commitment to their mission. These schools continue to demonstrate their dedication to providing quality education and assistance to their students and families, proving that with creativity, community support, and a strong commitment to their values, private schools can weather the challenges of rising costs while ensuring their families receive the support they need.

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