Choosing a Private School

(Photo courtesy: Watershed School)

Watershed School

Boulder County is fortunate to have
numerous quality private schools but narrowing the choice down to one isn’t easy. (Photo courtesy: Watershed School).

For many parents, choosing the right private school for their child is difficult. Boulder County is fortunate to have numerous quality private schools but narrowing the choice down to one isn’t easy. When you consider your child’s preference, your preference, and a school’s values, academic performance, curriculum and reputation, there is much at play. There is also the fact that unlike a public school, you may have to apply and your child’s enrollment isn’t a given. That’s stressful! We’re happy to share some wise thoughts here from a private school administrator and a parent of kids in private school that might help clear a path for your family’s journey into private education.


“There are so many wonderful educational opportunities for students and families in Boulder,” says Payton Hoops, Director of Enrollment Management at Watershed School. The best place to start is by asking questions about your student: Is my student flourishing in their current educational environment? What is working well, and what is not working so well? When are they curious, engaged, interested? What does success at school look like for my student? What environment will they thrive in?”

Don’t rush through these answers. Conversations with your student’s current teachers or principal might be in order to get a well-rounded view of how your child is really doing in school. How about class size? Is your student more at ease and better able to focus in a small class? Generally speaking, private schools have a lower student-to-teacher ratio. It’s reasonable to ask about enrollment numbers and class sizes. A smaller school may lead students to feel more closely knit.

“Once you’ve started to answer these questions and have narrowed in on what you are looking for, start to research schools,” says Hoops. “Ask as many questions as you can during the process. It is important to make sure your prospective school values partnership with families, can support your definition of success for your student, and will commit to your student’s academic, social, and emotional growth.”


It won’t surprise anyone to read here that private schools can be very expensive. Before you get too far down the road of choosing schools, consider what’s doable in your budget. In a commentary on, Becton Loveless asks, “How much money is available per child? Are there any expenses the family is willing to give up to pursue private education? What are the quality schools in their city that are realistic choices for their budget? Many families can’t approach the averages listed above and need to look for schools with tuition rates below the average.” Need-based scholarships may be available and it’s never wrong to ask!


Jessica Lyon, a former public school educator and mother of three with two kids enrolled at Summit Classical Academy, notes that school preferences can often be a reaction against or a continuance of how we were educated as children. “Because these formative years are crucial in the development of young people, there are steps that parents and guardians can take to give their child the best chance at thriving in and beyond these, nearly, first few decades of life. As the primary educators in their children’s lives, parents and guardians should first seek out an educational partner—a school that has similar values and core beliefs as the family,” she says. “Choosing a school that will come alongside the family and has a mission and purpose beyond developing children that can retain knowledge is imperative. While location, reputation, and curriculum should be considered, children are heavily influenced by their peers, educators, and the community that surrounds them, so families will want to be thoughtful that the partner they choose aligns at the core level. Choosing a partner in the education of your child is also not a decision that is permanent for the extent of the journey.”

By Darren Thornberry, Raised in the Rockies.