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Hybrid school asks parents not to 'show' for ball

Source: Appen Newspapers
By:  Aldo Nahed
March 12, 2012
FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. Most formal dinner and social dance fundraisers want a strong showing, but a recent ball event held by St. John Bosco Academy gave potential attendees reasons not to show up.

The reply card indicated reasons for "not attending" the March 10 event, including, "I can't dance," or "It's too far to drive." Instead, the hybrid school, 3160 Old Atlanta Road in Suwanee, hopes the money saved by families on getting a ball dress, hiring a babysitter and other associated costs will be donated to the school.

"We would love to have your absence at our ball," said Vivian Ferrari, director of operations for St. John Bosco Academy. "We have all been invited to a gala or a fundraiser ball, and while they can be fun and a great night out, you find yourself spending an enormous amount of money just to get to the ball."

The hybrid school concept incorporates homeschooling with two days of traditional classroom group settings. The idea has been in place for a while, but Catholics have traditionally relied on the parochial school program when choosing a private school.

At St. John Bosco, the concept was born out of four families and their 19 children meeting in a co-op environment at large homes to incorporate group learning.

But as their numbers grew, it became difficult to meet at a home and the parents pooled their money and hired teachers.

"As word got out and space was becoming limited, we subleased space," Ferrari said. "The first open house event yielded a large number of people who were looking for the same kind of thing."

The hybrid system works for families who want an intimate education for their children, Ferrari said. The students get the benefit of homeschooling combined with the best of traditional school, offering the basic required state standards of curriculum: math, language arts, social studies and science.

Another plus, Ferrari points out at least for Catholics is the cost. The average elementary, private or parochial private school per child is between $8,000 and $11,000 per year. For a family with four kids or more, that becomes a huge financial burden and almost impossible, even for those who have good paying jobs, she said.

The tuition at the hybrid school is about $2,500 a year.

"The kids love it because they could be at home with their parents and their siblings in a more relaxed environment, but two days a week, they are coming to a school setting," Ferrari said.

Class size at the school is between 10 or 11 students and the classroom average is eight. There are 75 total students who attend pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. Ferrari said the school is looking to add a ninth grade and expects a 20 percent to 30 percent increase in enrollment with classes capped at about 12 students.

"They can do group projects, competition, play interactive games and have that collaborative thinking that goes on in a classroom setting," Ferrari said.

Homeschool parent Carolyn Ettmueller, whose three children attend the hybrid school, said she likes the accountability and sustainability for her children.

"Homeschooling multiple children isn't easy," Ettmueller said. "I found that when I was homeschooling on my own, things were slipping through the cracks."

Ettmueller said she and her husband wanted to give their children a faith-based education.

"We had been through experiences with both a public school and a private school that were less than appealing," she said. "Bullying is prevalent in schools, as is nasty language, crude and cruel behavior, and we feel that being a kid shouldn't be so difficult."







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