Clark County private schools: Growing options for growing minds

Seton CatholicMost private middle and high schools in Clark County are seeing enrollments grow or hold steady, though the current economy has forced them to exercise creative options to help new and continuing students meet tuition requirements. Annual tuition ranges from $4,100 to more than $15,000, averaging more than $7,500.

These schools serve a small percentage of Clark County students whose parents are usually looking for highly individualized classroom attention, proven academic excellence and often respect for the parents’ religious values, according school administrators.

Whether they have been in operation for more than 100 years, or only a short time, these schools typically rely on strong support from alumni – often the parents of current students.

At St. Joseph Catholic School, open in Vancouver since 1954, the current 380 students count on the strong community legacy of the school, said Judy McMorine, the school’s development director.

“Families concerned about increased class sizes in public schools have looked our way,” said McMorine. “We have been able to maintain our good student-teacher ratio, and very little turnover, with a long-serving cohesive staff. We do receive funding through the parish, as well as private donors and supporters throughout the community. And we have the Vancouver Sausage Fest.”

At just six years old, King’s Way High School’s enrollment is growing faster than expected. According to Kings Way Principal Ron Franklin, the school has seen a 20 percent increase in the last two years to 152 students.

“The growth allows us to add programs – more classes, more sports, more arts – while maintaining our commitment to individual attention,” said Franklin.

Seton Catholic College Preparatory High School, Vancouver’s newest private high school (three years old) and the county’s only fully Advanced Placement and pre-AP level school, has also outpaced growth expectations as well.

“We thought we would open with about 25 students, adding about that many each year,” said Principal Ed Little, formerly principal of Skyview High School. “In fact, we opened with 40, and have added another 40 each year.”

The nonprofit status of Seton, like the others, demands strict fiscal responsibility, similar to running a business.

“We have to set a firm budget, and raise only the amount we need,” said Little. “We do it all ourselves, no contracting out. Our kids clean tables after lunch; we have no full time cook or custodian.”

At Cornerstone Christian School, active in Vancouver for almost 30 years, parents of the 180 elementary and 100 middle school students can participate in a “tuition trade” program, offering volunteer hours for tuition credit, according to middle school Principal Steve Butler. Parents help with lunch, yard duty and assist in classrooms.

North of Vancouver, Battle Ground’s 109-year-old Columbia Adventists Academy, with 117 high school students, continues to experience slow, steady growth while enjoying a new building, said Principal Matthew Butte.

“We are supported by nine constituent Seventh Day Adventists churches,” said Butte, “and we have a strong history of building good leaders for life. That gives us a certain ethos – a trustworthiness parents are drawn to.”       

At the Gardner School of Arts and Sciences, the emphasis on languages and science labs has helped the school qualify for grants, in addition to the community fundraisers for scholarships, said Principal Mark McGough. The school serves 85 students, and will be hosting a fundraiser at Pearson Air Museum on November 3.


Info side bar for Ed Spotlight

Columbia Adventist Academy – Battle Ground

117 students – grades 9 – 12

Annual tuition $8,000

18 employees

Cornerstone Christian School –

280 students – grades K – 8

Annual tuition $4,500

20+ employees

The Gardner School of Arts and Sciences – Vancouver

85 students – grades pre-K – 8

Annual tuition $15,390 for grades 1-8

21 employees


King’s Way Christian Schools – Vancouver

725 students – grades K – 12

Annual tuition $5,070 elementary, 
$5,710 middle, $7,325 high school

100+ employees

Seton Catholic College Preparatory High School – Vancouver

120 students – grades 9 – 12

Annual tuition  $9,671

15 employees

St. Joseph Catholic School – Vancouver

380 students K -8, 400 preschool

Annual tuition $4,600-$6,600

40 employees (K-8)