Private schools carry a certain mystique along with a raft of stereotypes. But the truth is that old assumptions no longer apply. Today’s private schools are diverse and engaging arenas that encourage individual growth, learning and support. The specific visions between schools may vary, but all are dedicated to excellence in education. To help you sort through the many options out there, here’s our guide to local private schools, what they offer and what’s new for the upcoming academic year.
This interdenominational school, established in 1996, is a relative newcomer. The partial mission of Southwest Christian High School is “to train students to think and act biblically,” emphasizing a worldview education that includes the study of Judaism, Pantheism, Islam, Buddhism and Secular Humanism, among other philosophies. According to director of admissions Sue Beuning, “We steep our students in philosophy, because we recognize that worldview shapes values, decisions and behaviors.”
The current location in the former Nordic Track headquarters lacks athletic facilities, so the school plans to build a new campus slated to open in Fall 2012. The new 29-acre location will provide extensive sports facilities, bigger classrooms, science labs and a state-of-the-art multi-purpose community room. The school is also adding more elective class options, such as biochemistry, theater and guitar.
Music has always been an important part of Southwest Christian High’s curriculum. Renowned music teacher Elwood “Woody” Johnson retires this year after 42 years of teaching music; as such, Natalie Cromwell has already begun the shoe-filling process, working part-time. “I feel privileged to teach at Southwest Christian High, working with four choirs, the Wind Ensemble and Handbell Choir,” says Johnson. “What has been truly remarkable is the amount of talent this small private school has generated, and the tremendous quality of each performing group.” 103 Peavey Rd., Chaska; 952.556.0040
West Lutheran High School begins its 33rd year later this month. The school’s mission is to train young people “through integrated Biblically based instruction for a life of service.” The instructors at West Lutheran are self-proclaimed “promoters of excellence,” with a shared intention to create differentiated learning, small class sizes and a family atmosphere.
The upcoming year promises a re-organized football league, with nine-man games in the out-metro area. Other new agenda items in the works are more volunteer involvement for both parents and students, and a capital campaign to reduce the building’s debt. The administration and Board of Regents will continue to discuss ways to market the school within the association of Lutheran churches as well as the community at large. 3350 Harbor Ln. N., Plymouth; 763.509.9378
Minnetonka Christian Academy is affiliated with Seventh Day Adventists and emphasizes the spiritual education of its students. Students are encouraged to fulfill academic, social and physical achievements “as the blessing God intended.” The school is also shifting its geography and will split into two parts.
The high school will become part of Maplewood Academy in Hutchinson, creating a distance-education system, which Principal Gerald Coi describes as “high tech, untraditional, live interaction—like Skype on steroids!” The elementary school will add school uniforms and slightly shorten its school day, but will otherwise remain in place under the guidance of Principal Kathy Williams. Appropriately, MCA’s slogan for next year will be “Come grow with us!” 3500 Williston Rd., Minnetonka; 952.935.4497
This co-ed Catholic high school works to develop both the academic and spiritual potential of its students. Dubbed “the four pillars of excellence,” it lists integrity, leadership, scholarship and faith as its core values. The school boasts 30 classrooms, music rooms, up-to-the-minute technology, a chapel, and multiple indoor and outdoor athletic facilities.
Next year, science teacher Jim Walker will inaugurate a new program called the “Leadership Institute” in which small student groups will meet weekly to learn various models of leadership. “There will be direct instruction, case study discussions, applications activities,” says Walker, “and as seniors, they’ll have the opportunity to transform this theoretical knowledge into personalized practice.” 8101 Kochia Ln., Victoria; 952.443.4659
This Catholic, co-ed, college preparatory school serves students in grades 7–12. The administration believes that “our students need to be interactive and participatory during the school day in order to learn,” and stresses faith-building along with rigorous academics. Enticing extracurricular offerings—the Environmental Adventures Club, Peer Ministry, Mission Trip and Sailing Club—accompany a full roster of sports, including lacrosse, softball, golf and tennis.
Next fall, BSM will initiate the “Eight Period Day” for senior high. The scheduling initiative features “the BSM Hour” during which students can take advantage of resources for academics, wellness, fitness, spiritual growth, or college counseling and guidance services. “Students told us they are increasingly being pulled in many directions,” notes Dr. Sue Skinner, senior high principal. “These days, more and more young people are out of balance and struggling to manage the daily routine of school, family, work and extracurricular activities.”
The new schedule intends to help students achieve a healthy balance. It will also provide an opportunity to learn time management similar to what the students will encounter in college. “The value of the Eight Period Day and the BSM Hour is most evident through the convergence of three concepts that are central our work,” says Director of Communications Melenie Soucheray: “Catholic identity, academic rigor and body-spirit-mind.” 2501 Hwy. 100 S., St. Louis Park; 952.927.4176
The Blake School focuses on a liberal arts curriculum across three campuses in Minneapolis, Hopkins and Wayzata. According to Director of Marketing and Communications Cathy McLane, “the school is best known for its rigorous academic program, talented students, and intentional work around pluralism and community engagement.” Its FLEX (Foreign Language Expose) is unique among area schools, and offers languages such as French, Japanese and Spanish to lower-school students.
Other standout features include the leadership of nine department chairs; a college counseling program; and Cornerstone, a program for students and parents of color. Off-campus study and internships are encouraged. The three campuses are each visually stunning, hosting a diverse student body with a 9-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. Blake is nonsectarian. 110 Blake Rd. S., Hopkins; 952.988.3405
Breck School is celebrating! The 2010-11 winner of the Minnesota State High School League's Challenge Cup also qualified for the robotics, mock trial and quiz bowl nationals this year. Founded in 1886, Breck is an Episcopal, co-educational school.
Breck represents Minnesota's first Mandarin Chinese curriculum as well as advanced research opportunities for upper school students in partnership with universities and corporations. The school offers student laptops, an integrated service learning program, and a welcoming, inclusive spirit.
Exciting plans are afoot: an expansion of modern language (either Chinese or Spanish) beginning in pre-school, an expansion of advanced research to include mathematics, and a pilot program to expand student technology to iPads and iPods. 123 Ottawa Ave. N., Minneapolis; 763.381.8100