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Archive for Sunday, September 20, 1998

PRIVATE SCHOOLS OFFER AN ALTERNATIVE TO PUBLIC EDUCATION.

September 20, 1998

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When the first school bells rang in late August, signaling the beginning of another academic year, approximately 10,000 students headed back to Lawrence public schools.

But that left about 450 students who did not join their peers in the public school arena. Instead they elected to pay the price of a private-school education at one of three parochial schools in Douglas County.

St. John's School, 1208 Ky.; Bishop Seabury Academy, located in the former Kaw Valley School east of Lawrence; and Veritas Christian School, formerly known as Douglas County Christian School, 256 N. Mich., are tuition-based schools that integrate religion in their curriculum.

``What we are looking for are students who are willing to work hard in the classroom and out,'' said Elisabeth Lee, Bishop Seabury dean. ``We want them to maintain integrity in everything they do, and to respect others.''

Bishop Seabury enrolled about 75 students this year. .

While affiliated with the Episcopal Church, the school is not limited to Episcopalians, Lee said.

``We have a diverse range of students,'' she said.

Students need not be of a particular faith to attend the school, just harbor a willingness to work hard, Lee said.

Expectations are clear and expectations are high,'' she said. ``I've seen students who are weak in some areas growing into a potential they never thought possible.''

Pat Newton, St. John's School principal, echoed Lee's thoughts.

``We expect our students to be there to learn and to want to learn,'' she said. ``We want them to come with an open mind.''

Although St. John's stresses the Catholic faith and students attend Mass, about 10 percent of the school's 322 students are not Catholic. Nevertheless, the religious part of the curriculum is the reason most parents send their children to the school, Newton said.

``We get to freely participate in Christmas, Advent and Easter holidays,'' she said. ``We can pray, and we can deal with moral issues.''

It's one of the benefits of private schools, Newton said.

Prayer is also a part of Veritas Christian School, where the biggest change is not just in the name, but the curriculum this year.

Administrator Peter Gitau is overseeing implementation of a Christian classical curriculum, which includes a return to history, logic and Latin programs.

``It's a more rigorous program,'' Gitau said.

In addition to the Christ-centered education, students at the school will follow a dress code for the first time this year and will receive instruction on proper school behavior, Gitau said.

``The focus is on the Christian community,'' he said. ``When a parent sends a child to school they want them to learn. Then, they want evidence of that learning. They demand accountability, and we teach not just education, but values and responsibility.''

About 60 students are expected to enroll at Veritas this year.

-- JL Watson's phone message number is 832-7145. Her e-mail address is jwatson@ljworld.com.

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