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Madison’s The Country School Bucks Enrollment Trends

Zoe Roos, Staff Writer, The Source • Contact Reporter

Published July 10, 2018

MADISON —

As the move and merger of the region’s Catholic school, Our Lady of Mercy, into a Branford facility has led some of that school’s families to seek a new, local option, talks have begun with the private, Madison-based The Country School to see what options are available for sharing resources.

While some public schools have seen a decline in enrollment over the last several years, The Country School Head of School John Fixx said his school’s enrollment has been on the rise over the past few years and interest in the school continues to grow for a number of reasons.

The Country School is a private school founded 62 years ago. Located on Opening Hill Road in Madison, the pre-K through 8th grade school has an enrollment of roughly 210 students from 22 different communities, and more than 12 different countries.

Fixx said the school was recently approached by members of the Our Lady of Mercy (OLM) Prep, the new school trying to find a temporary home in Madison after learning earlier this year that OLM’s current campus on Neck Road in town would close after this academic year. Fixx said members of OLM Prep wanted to discuss working with Country School, considering options from renting some fields to possibly integrating OLM Prep students (grades 4 to 8) in the school for one year.

Fixx said it was a good conversation and while The Country School cannot help provide educational space at this time, he hopes the conversation can continue.

“I hope we can continue to talk because I think the fields are possible or the gym or anything like that,” he said. “We are altruistic and there is a public purpose to a private school...When we took the meeting with them I think I felt like maybe this is our public purpose at this moment. It still might be in some way but our primary responsibility is to our existing students and the families who made these commitments.”

While OLM Prep families are facing immediate uncertainty in the coming year, Fixx said he has also seen an uptick in interest from Madison Public School families as the district prepares to shrink from six schools to five. In particular, Fixx said he has heard from a lot of families from Island Avenue School, a school slated to close in June 2019.

“The families are watching the whole reconfiguration and interestingly it used to be a compressed search process—families would call the school, they would come over and meet with the admissions director, and enroll three months later, but it is often a multi-year conversation now,” he said, noting that some parents may want to avoid school changes for their children. “They are not going to go to three schools from 4th to 8th grade.”

Knowing this is a period of uncertainty for many, Fixx said The Country School is ramping up its efforts to reach out to the shoreline community.

“It’s self-serving, but it is also serving children,” he said. “We want families to know their choices. Our dream would be to have every family on the shoreline come visit if they have a child up through 8th grade. It may not be for you or it may not be the right time, but you should know what your options are. No pressure, just come look.”

The Country School boasts high achieving students, small classroom sizes, and an innovative curriculum, but the school does come with a cost—enrollment for grades 1 to 3 is $25,905 a student and increases up to roughly $31,000 per student by 8th grade.

Fixx said one of the stereotypes of private education is that every parent can easily cut a tuition check without batting an eye, which he said is simply not true. Fixx said many parents have to get creative and the school does everything it can to help with financial aid.

In the last academic year, 25 percent of the student body received some level of financial aid totaling $750,000. The school also offers merit scholarships on top of the regular financial aid package and Fixx said the school has ways of being creative with tuition to help students attend.

“If we have families who are really stretching and there is still a little gap, the creativity we can bring is we can turn to a member of our community anonymously and ask if they would be ‘an angel’ and they might make up the difference,” he said.

Fixx said the school’s message now is simply to invite the community to come take a look at all the school has to offer in terms of education but also stability.

“We want to provide families with a chance to see what the Country School is all about so that families understand all of their education options,” he said.

To learn more about the school, visit www.thecountryschool.org.