Parenting means making crucial decisions. Choosing the correct school for your child is top of the list. If you’ve determined public school is not the most beneficial space for your special needs child, you may find yourself looking into alternatives, like private schools.
You understand your child’s needs better than anyone.
When seeking information from schools, it’s best to be prepared. An informed person makes the best decision. Consider your child’s specific needs and be prepared to interview schools with a set of questions.
Top 8 Questions to Ask at a Private School
1. Is the school accredited?
This should go without saying, but you’d be surprised. Florida’s private schools are not required to be licensed, approved, accredited, or regulated by the Florida Department of Education.
To choose the best fit, ensure the school is accredited. Accreditation guarantees schools meet or exceed minimum standards of quality. Essentially, it means the school demonstrates positive outcomes.
The Broach School is a fully accredited educational organization through Cognia (https://www.cognia.org/), a non-profit, non-governmental organization that accredits primary and secondary schools throughout the United States and internationally.
2. Do the teachers have experience working with children whose special needs are like those of my child?
A different kind of student requires a different kind of teacher. In your interview, be sure to ask about the teachers’ education, professional development, and areas of expertise.
3. What is the class size or student-to-teacher ratio?
Unlike Public schools, which are governed by the Class Size Amendment (https://www.flsenate.gov/laws/statutes/2021/1003.03), private schools have the flexibility and resources to host smaller class sizes. At the Broach School, the typical student-to-teacher ratio is 15-to-1 and sometimes smaller.
A smaller class size allows for more personalized attention and increased opportunities for communication with parents. It allows a teacher the time to learn what is best for each student.
4. What programs does the school offer?
The point of a private school is to provide an alternative educational option to families who are looking for a more personalized, specialized, rigorous, or unique educational experience than what is available in their public school district.
It’s important to have a comprehensive understanding of the programs available and identify a curriculum that meets your child’s unique needs.
The Broach School currently offers 6 distinctive programs tailored to the individual needs of your child.
5. How does the school provide social and emotional support for students with special needs?
Fortunately, there is a large emphasis on the importance of social-emotional learning (SEL) in education, and it’s been a long time coming. Today’s diverse learners are more challenged than ever, with the rates of anxiety and mental health concerns at their highest.
SEL is crucial for the social and emotional development of children with special needs, and it can help them develop the skills and competencies they need to succeed in school and life.
6. Is there a structured program for addressing behavioral challenges?
Historically, public schools’ response to behavioral issues has been to remove the student from the learning environment. This includes placement in ISS (In School Suspension) or OSS (Out of School Suspension).
This consequence does not support the continuum of learning, and it perpetuates a negative sense of self.
A structured program for addressing behavioral challenges can help children with special needs learn appropriate behavior, manage their emotions, and develop self-control. Such programs can also help teachers and staff to understand and respond to the child’s behavior consistently and effectively.
7. What resources or support services are available to families of students with special needs?
As a parent, you may be looking for additional information to help you navigate the education of your special needs child. What support does the school have to offer?
A special needs school, like the Broach School, provides accommodations, modifications, and related services such as speech and occupational therapy.
For parents, the Broach School also offers educational articles and parenting tips on its blog.
8. How much will this cost, and is financial aid available?
The answer to this question varies – a lot. The services, location, and reputation of the school determine the cost of tuition. In Jacksonville, the annual cost of tuition can range from $8,000 to $20,000, dependent on the grade level.
Private elementary school comes in between $8,000-12,000 per year, while private high school can range between $12,000-$20,000. It is recommended to research and contact local private schools to determine an accurate understanding of their tuition.
These numbers can be daunting, but help is out there. In the State of Florida, there are four scholarship opportunities available.
98% of students attending the Broach School do so for little to no out-of-pocket expense for tuition. A comprehensive breakdown of Broach School tuition and fee schedules can be found here.
In conclusion, choosing a private school for a child with special needs requires careful consideration and preparation. As a parent, it is essential to research and ask questions about the school’s accreditation, teacher experience, class sizes, programs offered, social and emotional support, behavioral programs, and resources available for families.
Moreover, it is essential to consider the cost and financial aid opportunities. Private schools like the Broach School offer specialized programs, accommodations, and related services that meet the unique needs of special needs students. By asking the right questions and being informed, you can make the best decision for your child’s education and future success.