Boulder County is home to a wide array of private schools.
From facilities that stress classical education tenets from ancient Greece and Rome to schools catered toward those with a creative bent, the field of private education abounds with options for students and parents who are seeking a specific direction in their education.
For all that variety, however, officials from the local private school community offer a similar set of wisdom for those looking to find the perfect fit when it comes to the right facility. Those commonalities are rooted in the importance of community, values and academic rigor when it comes to selecting a private school.
Brigette Modglin, founding family member and board member at Summit Classical Academy, said selecting the right private school should be about quality, academics and, perhaps most importantly, community. Summit is a classical Christian school that stresses a rigorous academic approach rooted in the precepts and morals of Christianity. A specific set of principles, tenets and ideas is at the core of the school’s curriculum, but Modglin said that the role of community also plays a vital role in the operation of the school.
Any parent or student enrolled at Summit, she noted, is connected to a strong network of support.
“It’s important that the private school you choose has a community that supports its teachers, families and the surrounding community,” Modglin said. “Learning best happens in relationships, so when you have a strong school community that works alongside you, this will set your child and your family up for success for years to come.”
While the curriculum and philosophy at Bixby School in Boulder is different, Head of School Nina Lopez speaks about the importance of common values in any parent or students considering a private school. At Bixby, founded in 1970 by two educators who served a total enrollment of only seven families, those values are rooted in empathy, critical thinking and academic involvement. That approach has continued, and involves engaging students in specific ways – for example, teaching swimming is a part of the Bixby curriculum.
“Attention to the whole child, and a customized, responsive approach to learning were uncommon in 1970. A lot has changed in education and in our world since Bixby first began, and Bixby has evolved and grown as well over that time,” Lopez said, adding that the core values have remained the same. “One of the things that has remained constant is our core belief that ‘committed, well qualified teachers are fundamental to the success of our school.’ Bixby is and has always been a place distinguished by its faculty, each of whom is an expert in their field and passionate about teaching children.”
Meeting parents’ and students’ core values is also at the heart of other private schools in the area, including Friends School, an independent Pre-K to grade 8 school in Boulder that stresses academic rigor, individuality and community. According to faculty, the Friends School offers class sizes, curriculum and scholarly support that helps its graduates thrive when they move on to high school. Specifically, the school serves a community of students and parents looking to nurture social-emotional skills as well as academic success.
“Friends provides a strong balance of rich academic and social emotional curriculum with an emphasis on character development that allows our graduates to successfully transition into any high school environment,” said Director of Admissions Melanie Leggett on the school’s website. “Parents delight in seeing their child come home from school each day thriving in the joy of learning, the excitement to return to school the next day and the discovery of knowing themselves well.”
Finding the right private school may also depend on the specific academic needs of students. At Boulder’s Temple Grandin School, the curriculum is geared toward “neurodiverse middle and high school learners.” According to Co-Founder Jennifer Wilger, students “come to us from a wide range of family and educational backgrounds, but share in common the challenge of finding a community of belonging. Because they are neither typical, nor typically autistic, they don’t easily fit into our society’s established educational models.”
Whatever the specific community, academic or social standards at any given private school, parents and students should look for a facility where quality, empathy and success are priorities, according to officials from Boulder’s diverse array of facilities. After all, a private school is still a place of learning, support and inspiration.
“We are all primary educators of our children, so when choosing the best private school for your child, it must align with your family’s mission, vision and goals,” Modglin said.
By Adam Goldstein, Raised in the Rockies