Small classes drive specialty private school appeal in The Woodlands

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Small classes drive specialty private school appeal One of the biggest factors attracting students, parents and teachers to choose specialty private schools over public schools in The Woodlands is an intimate classroom setting, local private school officials said.

The Woodlands Preparatory Academy, Fusion Academy The Woodlands and Texas Autism Academy are just three of several private institutions in The Woodlands area to offer unique, specialized educational opportunities. Although the schools cater to different types of learners, they all boast a lower teacher-to-student ratio than the typical 1-to-22 ratio often found at public schools.

Fusion Academy The Woodlands opened its doors in 2015 and promotes a 1-to-1 learning environment for students in grades 6-12. Melissa Paris, director of admission and outreach, said the accredited private middle and high school caters primarily to students with social concerns, emotional concerns or learning differences, as well as accelerated or gifted learners and students with lifestyle needs, such as gymnasts or equestrians.

“Many of our students feel they don’t ‘fit’ at a traditional school,” Paris said. “That sense of not belonging can make school an uninspiring place to be. We serve kids who aren’t flourishing in a conventional environment and offer them a community where they can feel connected, supported and understood.”

Paris said Fusion is able to individualize education with self-paced classes and course material that fits each student’s strengths, weaknesses and interests.

“The reason to choose 1-to-1 is because we believe it’s the only way to truly get to know a student and create a real emotional connection,” Paris said. “When students feel heard, understood and supported, they’re better able to learn.”

Also providing a more personal educational setting, The Woodlands Preparatory School, founded in 2000, has an enrollment of approximately 200 students in preschool through 12th grade and is one of only four schools in Texas to offer the International Baccalaureate continuum program. As an international school, WPS students learn multiple languages and are encouraged to become culturally aware on both local and global scales.

“[I believe many parents are choosing private schools over public schools] because students have a better learning environment with smaller class sizes and more individual attention,” Headmaster Daniel Fernandez said. “[Private schools] also are not forced to teach to a test, therefore, content is taught to the fullest and they have the leverage to maintain a true, safe learning environment.”

WPS has an average class size of 18 students for all grade levels except for kindergarten, which averages 15 students per class.

Expected to open this fall in The Woodlands area, Texas Autism Academy is a private school integrating Applied Behavior Analysis principles into its curriculum for students on the autism spectrum between the ages 4 and 22. Born from the nonprofit organization ASD Hope Inc., the school will maintain a teacher-to-student ratio of 2-to-7 with plans to add mainstream and inclusion classes in the future.

“Parents are choosing private schools over public schools for several reasons, [including]smaller classroom sizes and individualized curriculum plans,” Vice President Cary Leaky Mollinedo said. “Children with autism are unique individuals that deserve a quality education. [Texas Autism Academy] will create an innovative environment that is engaging and responsive to each child at each stage of their development.”

Although private schools are not necessarily right for every student, Mollinedo said parents should consider them as an option, especially for students with different learning or social needs. 

“I do believe that the Houston area has some wonderful public schools and public school teachers, but too often the ‘unique’ child gets underserved in a public school setting,” Mollinedo said. “I would encourage families that have children that struggle academically, socially or emotionally as well as encourage parents that have gifted and talented children to actively search for a private school based on the individual needs of their child.”

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