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Private Schools Hold Tuition Line But Offer Aid

So far in the coronavirus pandemic, private high schools in the Valley region have not experienced a drop in enrollment, nor have they had to reduce tuition, staffers told the Business Journal.However, many have strengthened their financial aid for families that have lost either all or a significant portion of their income due to the pandemic.For Harvard-Westlake School in Studio City, No. 3 on the Business Journal’s list of private high schools, more than 20 percent of its students are on some form of financial aid, and in many cases tuition is paid entirely through school aid.The Journal ranks private high schools in an accompanying list based on enrollment numbers.“It has been communicated to families on more than one occasion during this pandemic that if they are facing new needs or new financial pressures as a result of this pandemic, if someone has lost their job or if their income has been significantly curtailed, that’s a conversation they should have with the school,” said Ari Engelberg, head of communications and strategic initiatives at Harvard-Westlake. “The school stands willing and ready to support our families during times of need and that certainly calls to the school for emergency aid would be well received.”Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks – No. 2 on the Business Journal’s list – has increased its financial aid budget to keep students at school; efforts have maintained “strong interest” from new students too, according to Richard Klee, director of advancement.“Notre Dame has not experienced any decline in enrollment,” added Klee. “We are fully enrolled. … We are currently accepting applications for students who would like to join Notre Dame High School in the 2021-22 school year.”Engelberg said Harvard-Westlake has always taken extra steps to make sure students on financial aid are treated the same and have the same experience as those that don’t need it.“There are relatively few people who work at the school who know which students are on financial aid and which ones aren’t,” added Engelberg. “We don’t want there to be any stigma at all associated with receiving financial aid; we don’t want the student to feel that their experience here is somehow different. … We want them to have a full sense of inclusion.”If tuition is lowered at all, that decision would lie with the board of trustees and the school business office, Engelberg said.

“I’m pretty confident in saying there is not likely to be an adjustment to tuition,” he added.Waiting on normalcyUnfortunately, Valley schools are at the mercy of government entities to determine when it would be safe for older students to return to the classroom.Engelberg said Harvard-Westlake last year invested in infrastructure, equipment, technology and training to welcome students back on campus for the current fall semester, but for now classes are completely online.

“The county has really only permitted students to come back to campus, for in-person instruction, for lower grade levels. A lot of the schools at the lower levels have put in place hybrid programs where kids will come onto campus in rotations where they’ll spend some time on campus and at least getting some exposure to their teachers and friends,” explained Engelberg. “Since we serve middle and high school students, we haven’t even been able to do that.”An exception is made for student athletes and sports teams, according to Engelberg, who have been able to return to campus for conditioning exercises and practices outside.“We are finding ways to have students safely on campus, such as for athletic conditioning and practices, as well as for retreats and other school activities as permitted by (L.A. County),” added Klee at Notre Dame. “Also, under current rules, schools are permitted to host in-person, small cohorts of students whose needs cannot be met in a virtual learning platform for on-campus sessions.”Although schools are “handcuffed” in a pandemic environment, Engelberg said, the talent is still there on both sides of the classroom.“Whether you put them together in a classroom or you put them together in a Zoom room, good things are going to happen,” Engelberg told the Business Journal. “We still see teachers being innovative and engaging with students, we’re still seeing students be creative and driven and doing excellent work.”Notre Dame leaned into its community service values during the pandemic by having students organize a Candy Cane Drive-Through Christmas event with a “record number” of donations. The school partnered with the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association to get essentials to community members in need.

“The things we are doing at Notre Dame may be altered, but not moot,” said Klee. “We cannot embrace the people we serve in our Christian service program, but we still find ways to serve them.”

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