Demand for private schools leads to waitlist pool and expansion amid uncertainty for some public schools

It’s the type of noise we don’t hear as often, the bustle of kids outside a school playground.

Inside St. Anne’s School in Seattle, real estate is a hot commodity with students spaced out in the classrooms and the hallways. There is also a new way of communicating through masks with signs that read how can you show your emotions while wearing a mask. 

 "I think teachers are dialed into a whole new level of body language, expression and eyes," Kristin Moore with the Archdiocese of Seattle said.

Moore is the Director of Enrollment and Marketing. She says St Anne’s like many private schools have been in person since September. Currently St. Anne’s is open five days a week for Pre-K to 8th graders.

St. Anne’s is among 72 private schools across Western Washington, spanning from Bellingham to Vancouver all operated by the Archdiocese of Seattle. Right now, what they all have in common is something they have never seen before.

 "We are having an overwhelming amount of inquiries at our schools at this point," Moore said.

Private schools are in the midst of their enrollment period. So far it's been unprecedented demand for many of their schools, which means there are already waitlists for this fall.

 "We live in a small community out here in East Pierce County," Cole McKinney said.

McKinney lives in Buckley and said he never once thought of sending his two kids to private school until the pandemic.

 "That was a tough conversation to have," McKinney said.

Tough because they really liked their public schools but the constant changes and uncertainty over in-person learning sealed the deal for McKinney’s family.

His kids now attend Valley Christian in Auburn, which is not a part of the Archdiocese of Seattle.

Valley Christian said they are also seeing so much demand that they are adding an entirely new grade, 9th grade, to their roster for the next school year.

"I think [the] growth of private schools is definitely something we are going to see," McKinney said.

McKinney believes the trend will continue even after the pandemic but it will take some budgeting for his middle-class family.

"It’s something we are willing to sacrifice for our family for our children," McKinney said.

McKinney said they have already re-enrolled their two kids for the fall because they still don’t know if public schools will be in person for the normal hours. He also said the transition to private has been smooth for his family, with his kids adjusting well.

"They’ve embraced it and really done well in this environment," McKinney said.

The Archdiocese of Seattle said many families are currently getting financial assistance with some schools helping up to 60 percent students with some form of tuition aid.