Holy Trinity Episcopal Day School in Bowie is welcoming a new head administrator, and First Baptist School of Laurel is constructing a new building and expanding a program to work with mildly and moderately learning-disabled students.
High expectations and changes -- big and small -- greeted Prince George's County public school students and staff members when they returned to classrooms Monday. But as those in the county's private and parochial school community can attest, changes are underway there, too.
Enrollment continues to increase at several Prince George's private and parochial schools, and officials said they are expanding programs to draw in more students and to meet the needs of non-traditional private school students.
The increasing enrollment is coming from an influx of new residents and from parents moving their children out of the public schools because of their dissatisfaction with the pace of academic improvement in the school system or the ethics controversy and subsequent abrupt departure of former schools chief Andre J. Hornsby.
To meet the needs of its increasing population, First Baptist School is building a facility, expected to open next year, to house the school as well as offices for various church ministries, said school administrator Angela Haube.
The school, which accepts students from preschool through eighth grade, currently meets in the church building. The new facility will also allow First Baptist to move into another arena: Haube said the church plans to open a high school next year.
"We know there is a big need for Christian high school education in Prince George's County," Haube said.
Holy Trinity, which has campuses in Bowie on Annapolis Road and in Glenn Dale on Daisey Lane, also has seen significant growth this year, according to new head of school Marcy Cathey. The school, which enrolls students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, has seen a population increase from 570 to nearly 600 this year, Cathey said.
"Washington is a very transient area, and we have seen a significant amount of growth," said Cathey, who succeeded Peggy Reiber, who led Holy Trinity for 18 years. "By the time we are done with our enrollments, I am expecting that we will be close to 600 [students]."
Cathey added that while most grades are at capacity, there were openings in the half-day preschool, kindergarten, sixth and eighth grade levels.
Cathy was an assistant administrator at the Madeira School in McLean when she was tapped to head Holy Trinity. She has also taught computer science at St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School in Alexandria.
Cathey said she began to think about moving up to head administrator two years ago and began looking at local schools for openings. She was attracted to Holy Trinity, she said, because of the positive atmosphere she saw when she visited.
"It is a true community," she said of the school. "The children are happy and engaged and the adults who work with them are dedicated to their work. It was obvious to me the children were getting the very best they could."
Cathey said the biggest change academically this year will be the addition of a program called Spectrum "to provide additional support for students with unique learning styles." The program is part of the National Institute of Learning Disabilities, although it is not for learning-disabled children.
"Holy Trinity is a school for average and above-average children, but any children may experience difficulty with an aspect of writing or comprehension," she said. "Spectrum allows students to recognize and identify strategies to strengthen their weaknesses."
Haube said First Baptist School for the past few years has been honing a program geared toward learning-disabled students -- a non-traditional population among parochial and private school students.
The school has hired an assistant administrator to oversee the program, which offers both modifications and accommodations for learning disabled students, she said.
"That's not usual for private schools," she said. "But we feel that God is leading us to that. We can't say to parents that because their child has special needs, they can't have a Christian education."
The county's private schools have always seen their enrollments surge after a change in the public school superintendent's office or other disruptions, administrators said.
Two months ago, the county's school board named longtime county educator Howard Burnett to lead the school system until a permanent replacement is named for Hornsby, the county's third superintendent in six years.
Hornsby drew criticism when he was given a $125,000 severance package to leave midway through his four-year contract after allegations of unethical behavior, including granting a lucrative contract to an educational software company that employed his 26-year-old live-in girlfriend.