- The Washington Times - Monday, September 1, 2008

VIRGINIA BEACH (AP) | The slowing economy has resulted in Virginia parents joining others across the country in choosing public education instead of a private education for their children.

“People are trying to decide where they can cut back, and there is a free alternative,” said George McVey, president of the Virginia Council for Private Education.

South Hampton Roads, with dozens of faith-based schools, has been one of the hardest hit.

Enrollment at Gateway Christian School, for example, is expected to drop roughly 10 percent this fall. Principal Sam Postlewaite said he will have 375 to 380 students, compared with 420 last year. Tuition is about $4,000.

“Obviously, it’s just tough times” for parents, he said. “Either job wages haven’t gone up, or the cost of everything else is going up.”

At Norfolk Christian Schools, academic dean Jane Duffey said she’s seen a 20 percent increase in requests from student households for additional financial aid.

Tuition ranges from $6,300 in elementary grades to $8,700 in the senior year.

“In the admissions office, we’re getting a considerable number of calls from people asking right off the bat for that help,” she said of prospective students.

Enrollment is down about 2 percent from last year’s 750 students.

The principal at St. Pius X Catholic School, Sister Linda Taber, said enrollment is steady, but scholarship giving is up $20,000.

“We have had people say their work hours have been cut,” she told the Virginian-Pilot. “It’s hard times.”

Tuition ranges from $3,600 for in-parish students to $5,100 for out-of-parish students.

Sister Taber also said one family said gas was now so expensive that they could no longer afford the commute.

It’s not just declining income, either. One student said he couldn’t afford the commute.

At Hebrew Academy of Tidewater, Heather Moore said she’s seen a big increase in requests for tuition assistance. Tuition is about $10,000 annually.

“Some people don’t want to ask for aid,” said Miss Moore, the academy’s financial officer. “But I think that feeling is passing when people are deciding whether their child can go to day school or have to go to public school.”

Helen Pomerantz’s son, Bret, is entering fifth grade. A daughter, Dara, is entering seventh grade in a secular private school because Hebrew Academy extends only through the sixth grade.

Mrs. Pomerantz said she’ll travel 40 miles a day driving her children to and from school.

She canceled her family’s annual vacation, skipped summer camp for her children and is cooking more meals at home. Mrs. Pomerantz said she’s also looking for a part-time job after being a stay-at-home mom.

“It’s the values they learn,” Mrs. Pomerantz said of Hebrew Academy’s offerings. “They learn more about their religion than I learned in my entire life.”

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