Padua Academy held its open house this past Sunday.

Recruiting season here as private schools hold open houses

Jarek Rutz Headlines, Education

Padua Academy held its open house this past Sunday.

Padua Academy held its open house this past Sunday.

Wilmington’s Ursuline Academy will be showcasing its innovation, design-thinking, entrepreneurship and acceleration studio to prospective families at its open house Sunday. 

It’s one of many open houses that private schools hold each fall to show off their curriculums, students and facilities while answering questions from parents and potential students who may be interested in attending.

“Families get to really see every aspect of the school with attention really directed towards their specific questions and interests,” said Valerie White, director of enrollment at Ursuline. “It’s a chance for families to get the whole picture of what happens here.”

Also offering open houses this weekend are Salesianum School, an all-male Catholic institution in Wilmington, and Sanford School, a coed college prep in Hockessin.

Melissa Brown, director of admissions and financial aid at Wilmington Friends, said the Quaker school wants families to get a good feel for the program it offers and the community it is.

READ: Wilmington Friends School to mark 275th anniversary

“We’ll have current parents and students, in addition to the typical faculty and staff that are there, to talk about their experiences and how we might be a match for prospective families,” she said.

Ursuline’s new studio, referred to as the I.D.E.A. Studio, is under construction and expected to open in the winter.

It will be used by students in the middle and upper schools and will give them hands-on experience in various fields, including computer science, finance, engineering, entrepreneurship and business.

“We’re even going to have a student-run cafe, a little coffee shop that the students are going to be running,” said White. “It’s really a state-of-the-art facility that we’re getting ready to launch here in January.”

The school also will show off its new Dream Lab, which will be utilized by the lower school.

The lab, also expected to open in the winter, will be a hub for exploration in the world of design-thinking, digital arts, communication, journalism, business and innovation.

The Independence School in Pike Creek likes to toss around the mantra “every day is an open house.”

That’s a quote from their new Head of School Timothy Costello to remind the community they are always welcome to tour or visit, and that the school is authentic.

“What you see is what you get,” said Claire Brechter, director of marketing and communications at the school.

One aspect of the Independence School that she hopes families take away is the 90 acres of land the school sits on, which has both aesthetic appeal and practical educational uses.

“We have areas that are designated officially as outdoor classrooms and outdoor learning spaces,” she said. “We’ve added some new spaces since last year, so we have a pond with a dock so students can observe water life and waterfowl.”

Private schools have open houses in the fall because families and potential students usually narrow down their choices by winter and spring. 

The events help students and their parents envision how an education and experience at a certain school will shape them, and whether the students and schools are a good fit.

“We use student tour guides so that they can hear directly from the students who are living out their experiences on a day-to-day basis.”

About 100 families attend every open house, White said.

Ursuline has two this year, and some schools have several, some have one and some don’t have any.

Private schools that don’t have an open house, such as St. Andrew’s School in Middletown, offer reserved tours, both in-person and virtual. 

White pointed out that Ursline, and many other private schools, also have private tours and shadow days available in addition to the formal open house.

“A shadow day allows prospective students to actually go through a whole day of school here as an Ursuline student,” she said. 

Ursuline’s head chef John Maguire is making hundreds of sample-sized dishes for students and families to try. 

White said regardless of the pandemic, enrollment at Ursuline has been on a steady increase for years. 

They were one of the schools that never went fully-remote during the time when most schools were turned virtual because of COVID. 

“Independent schools like Ursuline have been able to maintain student engagement and progress through some very difficult times because of the resources and opportunities that we have here,” she said. “Whereas some other institutions like public schools, were unable to do that, needing to be virtual and so forth.”

Brechter said there’s a lot of renewed energy over the past two years coming out of COVID, as the school has transitioned from exclusively outdoor tours on golf carts to bringing families into the school building.

Students typically indicate areas of interest when they register for an open house, so their experience, which is typically a couple hours, focuses on those interests. 

“We have taken that information and we are going to pair them up with a student tour guide who is going to show them the whole school, but make sure we specifically highlight those areas that they really want to know more about,” White said.

Wilmington Friends School typically has about 125 families attend open houses, Brown said.

The school is always trying to highlight that it can work with individual students and bring out their unique strengths and passions, she said.

“We’re looking to feel the gifts and talents that each student brings to us,” she said. “There isn’t a specific type of student for whom we’re best for, other than one who wants to work and be successful and that can look like different things to different people.”

Here are some of the open houses coming up. Click on the school name for information on how to register:

Archmere Academy

  • Oct. 22 at 1 p.m.

Calvary Christian Academy

  • March 11, 2024

First State Montessori Academy

  • Sept. 28 at 6 p.m.

Saint Mark’s High School

  • Oct. 19 at 6 p.m. 
  • Nov. 2 at 6 p.m.

Salesianum School

  • Oct. 1 at 10 a.m.

Sanford School

  • Oct. 2 at 8:30 a.m.
  • Oct. 30 at 8:30 a.m.

St. Elizabeth School

  • Oct. 15 at 10 a.m. for the high school
  • Jan. 28, 2024 at 11 a.m. Pre-K through eighth grade
  • Jan. 30 at 5 p.m. for Pre-K through eighth grade

Tatnall School 

  • Nov. 5 – lower school starts at 11 a.m. and middle and upper schools start at 11:30 a.m.

The Independence School

  • Nov. 12 at 1 p.m.

Tower Hill School

  • Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. for middle and upper school families
  • Nov. 8 for lower school families
  • Nov. 29
  • March 6, 2024
  • May 2, 2024

Wilmington Friends School

  • Oct. 24 at 5 p.m.

Ursuline Academy

  • Oct. 1 at 1 p.m. for upper school families
  • Nov. 10 at 9 a.m. for lower and middle school families

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