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Cape Fear 2020: Private school growth

READ MORE: Cape Fear 2020: Private school growth
WILMINGTON -- Sam and Cathy Ibrahim are serious about their children's education. They have four kids who all attend Wilmington Christian Academy -- the largest private religious school in our area. Opting to pay for his children's education instead of taking advantage of public schools isn't cheap. But Sam Ibrahim says he's getting his monies worth. "It's a school that reaffirms what we believe and enforces what we believe, so I feel like the school and the teachers and the administrators work in a partnership and that's what makes it valuable for me." Wilmington Christian Academy Administrator Barren Nobles said, "That's what drives the private school market, is parents looking for an alternative to public education." Nobles is the head administrator at Wilmington Christian Academy. He says the region's population growth has impacted not only his school, but nearly every other private school in the county. "We're all growing," he said. "Tremendous growth, sometimes in the double digits the number of students."
"I liked the setting of a smaller class -- 16 to 17 students in a class is phenomenal."
Private school parent Lisa Wayne
Right now there are 19 non-public schools serving New Hanover County -- 13 religious and six independent. Only a handful of them offer high school education. Wilmington Christian Academy has had to add mobile units to handle the increase in student population. And like many public schools, finding qualified teachers is also an issue Wilmington Christian Academy faces, especially since the school is faith-based. Nobles said, "We want to stay strong with teaching our kids the character and spiritual values that we hold so dear to us from a Christian standpoint; we want our students to go out into a world and uphold those values." Nobles says the pressures of private schools are different from public schools. Instead of dealing with budget constraints from county funding, private schools have to produce a quality education parents will pay for. "Parents are not going to pay for an inferior education," Nobles said. "So private schools have great pressure on them, academically at least, to produce a product that's going to be excellent. Because the parents come in seeking that and are willing to put their finances toward that." Private schools in our area costs between $4,000 and $6,000 a year per student. Lisa Wayne sends her son to New Horizons Elementary School. She says the public school system did not provide what new horizons could. Wayne said, "I liked the setting of a smaller class -- 16 to 17 students in a class is phenomenal." New Horizons teacher Annetta Saggese said, "We really do believe that the smaller the class size the more we can address the issues with each individual." Leaders of both schools said their options to cope with the growth are to either add more names to already lengthy waiting lists or find ways to expand their facilities. Cape Fear Academy -- Wilmington's largest independent private school -- currently has more than 600 students. School officials predict they will have to expand their facility to house more than 800 students by the year 2020. That also means a rise in student tuition costs.

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