Enrollment is up for private schools across Charles County.
“We're off to a great start,” St. Peter's Catholic School Principal J.R. West said Wednesday.
St. Peter's has had an increase in enrollment every year for the past five years.
West said that the school continues to challenge students in subject areas such as reading and math, and plans a big push in math this year. He attributed the increased enrollment to people in the community seeing what the Waldorf school has to offer academically.
Many private schools in the area are faith-based. Southern Maryland Christian Academy is seeing its highest enrollment in 10 years, at 388.
Last year, the White Plains school had 335 students.
Secondary Principal Sharlene Thompson said that people choosing the academy like the idea of a family feel and like that SMCA has a lot of prayer incorporated into the school day.
With increased enrollment comes increased programs.
Thompson said the school has a new gym and that the athletics department has grown with the addition of a cross-country team.
The key to success at St. Mary's Bryantown Catholic School, Principal Sharon Caniglia said, is a great staff and “high standards for academic excellence.”
With private schools come varied tuition costs. Federal sequestration budget cuts that have hit federal agencies and contractors added concern for many of the private schools' educators.
“Back in April when people were registering, parents were concerned about sequestration,” said Archbishop Neale School Principal Peggy Howard.
Howard and staff at other private schools said that schools were paying close attention to the cuts and offering help in various ways for parents affected by them.
Caniglia said supporting families in any way is important and that many families had two parents affected by furloughs.
Grace Christian Academy increased the amount of tuition assistance offered to families to help with sequestration concerns. The Waldorf school's registrar Beth Anne Lower said that the uncertainty of how the cuts would reach families had many not committing to the school as early as usual.
Lower said that in the last two weeks, registration has picked up because families are getting a better idea of what their financial situations will be this year.
GCA increased its enrollment by three students, she said.
Registration at Grace Lutheran School in La Plata picked up in August, and admissions director Jenny Armstrong said that similarly to GCA, many families were waiting to see what the future had in store.
Armstrong said that with 230 students enrolled, the school has roughly the same amount of students as last year.
The school welcomed 50 new families this year.
When it comes to assisting students with hardships, Armstrong said Grace does “everything within our power” to help a family stay at the school.
Howard said ANS' enrollment wasn't affected much from the cuts; the school grew to 424 from 370 students last year. She said the school year started out smoothly and that the school took its first week to work out any “jitters.”
The first week for Potomac Heights Christian Academy has not happened yet; classes at the Indian Head school start Sept. 3.
Currently, 70 students are enrolled at Potomac Heights. The last school year started with 71.