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  • Writer's pictureVicky Keston

Valuing Private School Extras: Music, Arts, Academic Support, and More

Updated: Jun 13

Given the cost of private schools in the Bay Area, which often exceeds $40,000/year for K-8 and $60,000/year for high school, resources are an important part of the value. When evaluating private and public schools, parents often look at the student:teacher ratio. This is, of course, a very important number and can point to the amount of attention that a student will receive. In addition to classroom teachers, schools may offer additional teachers for visual and performing arts, foreign languages, making, and more. Other human resources may include school counselors, learning specialists, a school nurse, and support for applying to the next level school or college. From lunches to school trips, the extras vary greatly. Generally, schools highlight offerings during school tours, but it’s less obvious what is not offered. I've also been known to look on the school website under the About Us listing to see what types of teachers and staff they employ, and under the Academics and Student Life sections to search out food, transportation, activities, and so forth.

Enrichment Classes 

Enrichment classes may cover any specialized subject, such as art, music, band, theater, foreign language, physical education, or crafting/making/tinkering/technology. Some schools use enrichment teachers to reduce class size, rotating through specialty classes, while other schools maintain the same class size all day. For instance, my daughter’s school has two classes per grade in K-4 but splits each grade into three groups for specialty classes. My daughter enjoys participating in the school ensemble, while other students choose theater. All students at her school and peer schools with these programs learn a foreign language and are exposed to different performing and visual arts. Offerings vary dramatically among schools, so ask on a tour or check the school website under the academic section for information about the type of specialist teachers onsite.

Other Support Services

Many schools staff one or more learning specialists to help neurodiverse students and those needing accommodations. These specialists can support students with mild learning differences, ADHD, autism spectrum, or medical needs. Some schools staff reading and math specialists, and offer extra sessions for students needing more time to learn. Depending on the number of specialists in the school, they might provide 1:1 or group sessions, or they might create an accommodation plan for the student, such as extra time on tests, the option to type their essays, or priority seating.

Other staff at schools may provide mental health counseling, puberty education, or assistance with applying to high school or college. Some schools staff a school nurse to provide medication or support, or offer a small area for students to rest or get help when they are having a tough time. 

Meals, School Trips and More

Some private schools offer freshly cooked lunch, either included in tuition or for an extra fee. Other schools might offer an outside lunch service (of varying quality). Some private schools offer transportation in the form of a school bus or van. Many private schools provide middle schoolers laptops and/or iPads of varying quality; some allow the students to take them home.

Many schools offer specialized school trips, ranging from local camping in tents to international travel as a class, or an exchange student program. Some travel is included in tuition, and some is at an additional cost. These programs can be a highlight of the student experience, providing team building or exposure to different cultures.

Role of a K-12 Consultant 

A consultant can help you craft your school list to be sure of a balanced list offering a match of services with the student and parent’s interests. A consultant can also review all admissions materials, in particular student and parent essays, to help focus them to each school’s admissions goals. A consultant can directly work with your child to brainstorm, draft, and edit their own essays. The consultant can provide feedback on whether the essays read as genuine and how to shine during the application process. 

Want more input on K-12 schools?

Vicky consults with families to help select, apply to, and communicate with public and private schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. Vicky maintains a principle of non-judgment. Hourly, VIP, and Season packages include a discussion to review school options, applications, essays, and key decisions. Vicky offers a limited number of packages each year to assure her availability. 

Vicky’s own children have attended both public and private schools, and have received both accommodations and curriculum changes; her elder is in high school, and her younger in middle school. New clients can email to learn more about her services, or see her website to learn about her packages.

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