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  • Writer's pictureVicky Keston

Public School or Private School: the Transfer Decision

In the fall of 2019, my children transferred from a public school to a private school, and parents have increasingly asked for my advice on this matter. Why did we transfer? How did we go about it? Are we happy that we did so? Do we have any regrets?

Should We Transfer to Private School?

If you were happy before the pandemic, and if your children were learning, then I would find a temporary arrangement for the rest of the school year, say a private learning center like STEMFul or Celsius & Beyond. If, on the other hand, before the pandemic, you were unhappy, your kids were not learning or were not adapting to the system, then private school may be an option.

In summary, ask yourself, if public schools return in person in August, would I be happy to return? Schools might be hybrid, but they do seem likely to access enough adult vaccines to reopen for fall 2021.

In our situation, we left before the pandemic, and we did so for specific reasons, and I am grateful for the opportunities my children have at our school. The community welcomed us, my children made friends, and the warm environment of our school goes beyond any academic fulfilment.

What are the Main Differences in Private School?

Remembering that the issue of in-person vs. distance is temporary, instead focus on what would be different in the long run. In my decision, the factors separating independent schools from our public elementary and middle schools were:

  • Lower student-teacher ratio, which was about half our public options,

  • No combination of 4th/5th grade. Though some smaller schools use combo grades with a lower student-teacher ratio, we only applied to schools without combos, based on my kid's experience in 4th/5th.

  • Flexibility to meet my children’s academic needs, specifically single subject acceleration in math and reading. Not every independent school will accelerate children to above grade level math, so this is an important question if your child needs more academic challenge.

There are a huge range of learning philosophies in independent schools, which can be read up in this blog about Choosing an Elementary School, which also applies to middle schools.


Which Privates Would Allow a January Transfer?

Many parents would like to switch schools immediately to get in-person learning or a full day of distance learning. While many independent schools have closed admissions to midyear transfers so that teachers can focus on the current students, a handful of independent schools and many Catholic schools are accepting immediate transfers. In order to find these opportunities, you can (1) post in the private school Facebook group, and (2) reach out to any school you may like because it never hurts to ask. There may be more flexibility for children looking to distance learn, as that would not require adding a new family to COVID screening.


How Do I Get Started?

First, read this blog about applying to private school. Research school websites, join our private school Facebook group, and if you’d like more help, you can reach out to me for a private consult. A few things you can put together over the holiday break while you wait for tours to start up again:

  • Your child’s academic record. You can email your public school principal and school secretary, or you may be able to download on Parent Vue.

  • Draft an essay about your child’s strengths and growth areas. Think of anecdotes that bring these to life, as I described in my blog on private school essays.

  • Think through what you want from a school, private or public, and what type of learning environment, as discussed in my blog on choosing an elementary (or middle) school.

  • If you plan to apply for financial aid, gather your income, expenses, and asset valuation for 2020 and plan to draft your taxes the first week of January. More on the process in my blog on financial aid.

Need more help?

Vicky consults with families to help select public and private schools in San Francisco in an environment of non-judgment. Her own children have attended both public and private schools, and she believes that each has unique benefits. Email to learn more about her services.



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