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Choosing Which Private School is Best for Your Child

Choosing your child’s education path is a serious decision. Parents who prioritize faith and character development in addition to rigorous academics have some options.

 

Wade Siegel found himself facing just that decision. Siegel had been a lifelong Portland resident until he was reassigned to Los Angeles for work five years ago.

 

Upon returning, Siegel and his wife began a thorough process of looking at schools in which to enroll their son. That search lasted two years, and by the start of the 2016 17 school year, they had decided to enroll their eighth grader at Portland Christian Schools (PCS).

 

During those years of interviewing friends and community members, PCS emerged as a favorite.

 

“I talked to another parent whose kids had just graduated from [a large local Catholic high school] and he said that if he had to do it all over again, he’d go with Portland Christian,” Siegel says.

 

After spending a year attending several schools’ athletic events, touring campuses, and speaking with other parents, PCS became “a pretty easy choice.”

 

One thing that struck Siegel was that PCS parents continued to volunteer at the school even though their children had graduated and moved on to college.

 

Another aspect he liked was that the school’s culture encourages student engagement. Siegel says his son doesn’t have to choose just one sport—his son plays football, basketball and baseball and sings in the choir—he can pursue everything he has time for.

 

“They’re doing right by the kids going to school there,” he says.

 

This year, PCS turns 70, and while it has grown in scope and size over the years, it has grown in a way that puts the whole student first—including their mind and their spirit.

 

At present, PCS operates two campuses located about a mile apart—one for 380  preschool through fifth grade children, and another for 285 junior high and high school students. The overall student teacher ratio is 12:1. The school is fully accredited at all levels with a certified, credentialed faculty.

 

PCS serves a diverse population. As an independent, non-denominational school, there are more than 175 different local churches represented. Thirty four percent of the student body are people of color and the school’s International Student Program adds to the multi-cultural environment. Students commute to PCS from many communities throughout the Portland/Vancouver metro.

 

Sherri James, principal of the Jr/Sr high school, says that PCS offers students rigorous academic and extracurricular platforms that include advanced technology, many AP and honors classes, and concurrent college credit opportunities. Student activities include clubs for skiing, chess, yearbook, choir, band, and drama, as well as 3A level sports like soccer, basketball, track, cross-country, baseball, softball, volleyball, and football.

 

“Christ centered principles are woven into every area of academics and activities,” James says. “Teaching is anchored in the truth and love of Christ, and every child is valued, loved, and encouraged. Here, they can be involved and have the opportunity to develop into the person God intends them to be. We help them grow, find their potential and their purpose, and we put people in place to support that.” To fulfill that mission, James says her school has implemented a support system to encourage and advise students, including a dean of students, a campus pastor, a student ministries coordinator, and a student support specialist.

 

Additionally, all Jr/Sr high teachers are on campus for an extra hour each day to provide academic assistance and free tutoring. The school staffs a recreation center for students after school where they can do homework, wait for a ride home, or hang out until after school activities begin.

 

That aspect of the culture appealed to Siegel as well.

 

“I also like that classes end at 3:05 p.m., and that my son gets to study for an hour after school,” Siegel says. The culture, he says, is designed in a way so that students can alleviate some of their homework load while still on campus; when they arrive home, they can relax and have dinner with their family without having hours of evening homework hanging over their heads.

 

Those same principles are in effect at the elementary campus, too.

 

Elementary school principal Rhonda Rogers says, “College prep starts in preschool.” Unlike a lot of public schools, or even private schools, at PCS, Spanish language instruction starts in preschool and continues through the fifth grade.

 

Generally, preschools don’t qualify for accreditation. PCS is different. Not only was PCS’s preschool program one of the first in Oregon to receive accreditation, it is also the first Christian program to receive five stars from the state’s Quality Rating  and Improvement System.

 

Much like the Jr/Sr high school, Rogers says PCS’s elementary school offers “a rigorous, but age appropriate, education.” In addition to engaging classes and specials such as computer, library, PE, art, and music, students also have the opportunity to participate in folk dance, Lego robotics, chess, and other activities. Before and after school and enrichment programs are offered year round.

 

The elementary school also has a peer ministry program in which students complete a rigorous application and interview process to receive on going leadership training and mentoring. Trained peer ministry students are then “deployed” throughout the school to influence their peers and the school’s culture.

 

“Kids want to change the world,” says Rogers, “and they will. It’s this culture that makes everything so different here. When families visit, they definitely feel it.”

 

Awards and honors aside, PCS is more like a micro community—or one big family that is also a place to prepare for college and for life.

 

Source: OregonLive 1/10/2017