June 19, 2011

St. Vincent's to open high school in Bedford in fall

A college prep program will offer small classes and a Christian environment.

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Because of interest shown by parents, officials at St. Vincent's School in Bedford knew they would eventually open a high school.

"It's always been part of the plan," said Kenneth Monk, head of school at St. Vincent's. "We just had to figure out how to make it work."

They did, and in the fall St. Vincent's High School will open, using small class sizes to provide students with a college preparatory program in a Christian environment.

Monk said parents have been asking for years about adding a high school.

"They're looking for a place where students can be safe, secure, loved and stay throughout high school," he said. "We want to offer that to them."

St. Vincent's will join a handful of other schools in Northeast Tarrant County offering K-through-12 educations, including Fort Worth Christian in North Richland Hills, Covenant Christian Academy in Colleyville, Harvest Christian Academy in Watauga and Grapevine Faith Christian School.

Despite an economy that refuses to rebound, most school officials say they are seeing steady increases in enrollment, which bucks the national trend. Enrollment at private schools nationwide fell 12.7 percent between 2002 and 2010, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Grapevine Faith, which expects about 770 students in the fall, increased its enrollment by 9 percent last year, said Tracey Smith, admissions director..

"We have been blessed," Smith said.

One of the keys for private schools to stay open is enrollment, school officials say. Harvest Christian has about 300 students, while Grapevine Faith and Fort Worth Christian each have about 800 students.

"Private schools that have a healthy enrollment of 250 or more seem to be doing fine," said Terry Caywood, headmaster at Harvest Christian. "It's the smaller schools that are having to back off."

One such school, Glenview Christian, which had 123 students this past school year, recently closed its doors because of financial concerns.

"We've been in this business for 39 years and it was a very hard decision," Dan Gilbert, associate pastor of education and administration at Glenview, in Fort Worth near Haltom City. "It is sad, we had juniors that went to this school their whole life, and now they have to graduate somewhere else."

Gilbert said the school saw losses in student enrollment during the past three years.

"We were hoping the economy would pick up, for the parents' sake and for the school's sake," Gilbert said.

Caywood said Harvest Christian grew by 23 percent during the past three years.

Rhanda Dunning, who will send five children to Harvest Christian in the fall, said the atmosphere at the school is as important as the academics.

"The character development of my children is most important to me," Dunning said. "It's a family-type atmosphere. I feel like my children really feel valued by the teachers."

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