GREAT FALLS — It is National School Choice Week; founded in 2011, it’s a week dedicated to recognizing educational options in education for parents and students.
According to schoolchoiceweek.com, education options for Montana’s roughly 225,000 children include:
- Traditional Public Schools
- Charter Public Schools
- Magnet Public Schools
- Private Schools
- Home Education
In Great Falls there are a variety of private school options, such as Foothills Community Christian School. Fall enrollment at Foothills was a record setting 205 pre-k through 12th grade students.
"School choice just sort of accentuates for us that parents actually do have a choice in the education of their children. So it's an opportunity for us to highlight as a parent you can choose public, private, home school or any combination of that,” said David Culpepper, the Head of School.
For parents such as Cayla Lee, school choice is about setting children up for success.
“Not every kid is fit for one education, so I think it’s important to look at what fits your child best. It might not be the public school system, you might want to go the private route. It might not be the private route, it might be the public schools, just to have the best fit for each child. You want to give them as many opportunities to be successful,” Lee said.
Lee's five-year-old son Chase is in pre-k at Foothills.
“He’s not just a number, it’s like he’s been accepted into a family,” explained Lee.
“Foothills is also great because they teach the kids to have a strong moral compass that you just don’t get with other education entities,” Lee said.
The idea to integrate or to bring the biblical worldview into each subject area is something uniquely different than what the public school does,” Culpepper explained.
The choice does come with a financial responsibility. Students have to apply to Foothills and pay tuition. According to Culpepper, around 40% of Foothills’ student population receives tuition assistance from scholarships or third-party sources. The school also hosts an annual Spring Banquet as a fundraiser for students and other school needs.
The banquet typically brings in big names from the sports and political world. This year’s banquet speaker is former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. The event is sold out.
For some parents, the tuition cost is worth the curriculum, and close-knit community.
“We wanted to give our son the best opportunities to open as many doors later in life,” explained Lee.
Foothills is marking School Choice Week with a number of events including their LEARN Night Open House Thursday, January 27th from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the 2210 5th Avenue North in Great Falls. The event is in conjunction with the Great Falls Chamber Business After Hours event.
From the National School Choice Week website:
As a not-for-profit, charitable effort, we focus equally on traditional public, charter, magnet, online, private, and home education options. Every January, our participants plan tens of thousands of events and activities––such as school fairs, open houses, and student showcases––to raise awareness of school choice across all 50 states. We celebrate all types of K-12 options, including traditional public schools, public charter schools, public magnet schools, private schools, online academies, and homeschooling. NSCW does not favor one type of education option over another.