While private schools around the country had a tumultuous time during the pandemic, with some seeing enrollment spikes while others experienced declines, private high schools in Los Angeles have remained a stable option for parents considering education choices.
Statewide, private high school enrollment in California dipped by about 1,500 students as the pandemic struck in 2019-20, but largely bounced back in the 2020-21 school year, according to information provided by schools to the California Department of Education. Enrollment in August stood at about 150,700 students, only slightly fewer than the school year before the pandemic.
In Los Angeles County, which includes the city of Los Angeles as well as Beverly Hills, Pasadena, Santa Monica and many other cities in Southern California, the dip in enrollment was more pronounced, but still not large. Between the 2018-19 and the 2020-21 school years, enrollment at private high schools decreased by about 3.5%, according to the Department of Education data.
However, the data also shows the drop in enrollment at Los Angeles County private high schools appears to be slowing year-over-year, with enrollment down almost 1,100 students in the 2019-20 school year but only about 600 in 2020-21.
Deborah Dowling, executive director of the California Association of Independent Schools, which represents 232 schools statewide and more than 50 in the Los Angeles area, says she does not see major shifts.
“Overall, 2020-21 enrollment across our association was down 2% from 2019-20,” she wrote in an email. “We don’t know if that will come back up for 2021-22, stay steady or drop a little further, but we don’t expect much change. Enrollment does seem to have held reasonably stable through the pandemic.”
Educational consultants are saying the same.
“Generally, private schools in Los Angeles have continued to maintain enrollment numbers despite the pandemic taking a financial toll on many segments of American society,” Akbar Rahel, admissions director at Prep Expert, a company that helps students prepare for college testing and application, wrote in an email. “Of course, this can be attributed to the fact that the pandemic had a disproportionate impact on lower-income families. Families with children already in a private school were unlikely to feel the negative financial effects of the lockdowns and restrictions.”
The average annual tuition for private high schools in California is $19,800, according to the Education Data Initiative, and top schools in Los Angeles can be $30,000 or more.
Jamie Bakal, a former teacher and veteran education consultant in Los Angeles, says there are many factors impacting educational choices and enrollment. But the smaller classes offered by private schools, along with wellness initiatives, expanded class offerings and an emphasis on college preparation, keeps interest high.
“There seems to be a push and pull from a few different things,” she says of the current climate. “But it has all kind of balanced itself out.”
Overall, she says, “I think interest is up.”
Many Private High School Options for Parents
For parents looking at private high schools in Los Angeles and the surrounding area, here is a sample of what’s available:
- Brentwood School in Los Angeles serves about 1,200 K-12 students across two campuses. It has about 575 students in high school, and 46% identify as students of color. The average class size is 17 and the student-to-teacher ratio is 8-to-1. The school’s Veterans Center for Recreation and Education, a decades-long partnership with the West Los Angeles VA, brings a unique set of resources to the school.
- The Buckley School in Sherman Oaks, California, has about 830 K-12 students and an average class size of 13. The student-to-teacher ratio is 12-to-1. It offers 20 after-school programs, 40 student clubs and organizations, and 50 summer programs, according to the school.
- Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica, California, serves more than 1,200 K-12 students, with about 550 in high school. About 50% of the student body identify as students of color, as well as about 38% of the faculty. The student-to-teacher ratio is 8-to-1, according to the school.
- Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles serves about 1,600 students in 7th through 12th grades. Roughly 59% identify as students of color. The average class size is 16 and the student-to-teacher ratio is 8-to-1, according to the school.
- The International School of Los Angeles serves about 1,000 students across multiple campuses. Students represent 65 nationalities and 40 different languages are spoken, according to the school. The school features immersion in French and students can earn a French Baccalauréat or an International Baccalaureate.
- Loyola High School in Los Angeles is a Catholic school serving about 1,300 boys. It features more than 80 clubs and activities; a student-to-teacher ratio of 23-to-1; and 99% of graduates go on to attend a college or university.
- New Roads School in Santa Monica, California, serves about 520 K-12 students, with a maximum class size of 20. About 40% identify as students of color, along with 34% of the faculty. The school counts Amanda Gorman, the first U.S. Youth Poet Laureate, who recited her work at President Joe Biden’s inauguration, as a graduate.
- Oakwood School in North Hollywood, California, serves about 800 students in grades K-12 and has about 90 students per grade in high school, where 43% are students of color, according to the school. Students have made study-abroad trips to Korea, Japan, Sierra Leone and many other countries and 100% of the school’s seniors are accepted to college.
- Westridge School in Pasadena, California, serves 550 girls in grades 4 to 12. It has a student-to-teacher ratio of 7-to-1 and an average class size of 15, according to the school. The school offers more than 150 student leadership roles.
- Wildwood School in Los Angeles serves 725 K-12 students across two campuses, including almost 230 in high school. About 34% identify as students of color, along with 43% of the faculty. The student-to-teacher ratio is 15-to-1. Internships are woven into the curriculum for juniors and seniors, allowing students to explore careers and develop workplace experience.