It’s about that time of year again, when kids mingle at bus stops with backpacks in tow and freshly sharpened pencils are stocked and standing by. The anticipation in the air signals only one thing: Another school year is about to begin. But selecting which school is right for your child can be a daunting task, especially when there’s a plethora of great options at hand. And what’s more, so many schools require advance registration—like 10 months or more. That’s why we did the grunt work for you. Here’s our short list of local private schools.
Providence Academy, Grades Pre-K–12
At Providence Academy, faith, knowledge and virtue take center stage. With an educational approach grounded in traditional practices, this Catholic college-preparatory school holds students to high standards, both in the classroom and out. According to athletic director Kurt Jaeger, bus rides to sporting events aren’t typical. “There are pockets of kids with lights attached to textbooks; in the back they’re talking about chemistry, and across the aisle they’re speaking another language,” he says. “Providence teaches kids to be engaged learners who are invested in their future.”
All classes, pre-K through 12, are held in the same building in separate wings. “You might think you’re on a campus out east” with the Colonial-style architecture, interior pillars and brick façade, Jaeger says. The pristine campus is home to about 940 students, with an average student-teacher ratio of 20:1.
In the past 10 years Providence has crowned three state champions and made 16 trips to state tournaments. Moving forward, the school hopes to offer online classes and integrate newer technology into the classroom, including iPads. But no matter where the future leads, Providence will remain an institution of tradition. Tuition $12,455– $15,855. 15100 Schmidt Lake Rd.; 763.258.2500
Fourth Baptist Christian School, Grades K–12
A tall steeple visible from Highway 55 marks the home of Fourth Baptist Christian School in Plymouth. The school, founded in 1966 and relocated to the area in 1998, is part of Fourth Baptist Church and has a highly religious focus. “We integrate Biblical principles and instruct toward character development in every class,” says Matt Morrell, school president. He explains that the goal is not to “simply train children how to make a living, but rather how to live.”
The school also offers a rigorous academic curriculum, with students testing well above national averages. The 15:1 student-teacher ratio allows the 205 students at Fourth Baptist to receive ample attention. Besides sharing the building with the church, the school offers many specialty classrooms, such as a full wood shop, five home-ec kitchens, computer and science labs, and more.
Extracurricular activities remain an important part of students’ lives, with offerings ranging from basketball, baseball, volleyball and track, to choir, orchestra, hand bells and more. This coming year the school hopes to upgrade some of this technology, adding smart boards, and will continue investing in new curriculum, textbooks and other cutting-edge materials. A special fine arts treat for high school students: The Academy of the Arts (theacademyofarts.org), a traveling theater troupe that comes to campus and spends a week with students exposing them to theatrical presentations, will host a drama seminar. Tuition $4,450– $5,450 plus fees. 900 Forestview Ln. N.; 763.417.8240
West Lutheran High School, Grades 9–12
The development of spiritual, intellectual and social skills is the focus at West Lutheran High School. With small class sizes, a broad liberal arts program and many opportunities for community involvement, the school prepares students to go into the world and serve.
Karla Smith, mother of two graduates, is happy her daughters had the opportunity to use their talents in a variety of activities, including basketball, cheerleading, National Honor Society, student government and drama. The extracurricular activities are “designed to bring out the talents of every student,” principal Merl Meitner says. In fact, around 85 percent of the students participate in some kind of activity, with particular involvement in the music program, which is a tradition of the Lutheran school system.
The emphasis on inclusion is carried into the classroom as well, where students of all skill levels are encouraged to be a part of the West family. With around 150 students enrolled and 40 kids per class, it’s no wonder the school has become a tight-knit community. “West Lutheran is like a small town school but in a metropolitan area,” says Smith. Tuition: $7,295–$8,995. 3350 Harbor Ln. N.; 763.509.9378
The Whole Learning School, Ages 7–18
For those with neurological and physical disorders, the traditional classroom can be exceptionally challenging. That’s where the Whole Learning School (TWLS) offers a different environment. “One of the big pieces for our students is that they all share a common need for more time,” head of school Ann Rooney says. “For the first time ever, they can actually take the time to breathe and to think about what they’re learning,” she says.
A typical day at TWLS, which was founded in 2003, begins with a mind-body workout, a combination of cardio and yoga that engages the system and stimulates students’ senses for a productive day. TWLS is a life-skills school, so lessons are planned around developing skills the students can apply to their current lives and future occupations. “Our goal is for students to become strong, self-directed learners,” Rooney says. American Sign Language, karate, drama and music (due to partnerships with the MacPhail Center for Music and Stages Theatre in Hopkins) make up the four specialist periods at TWLS; “we strongly believe that drama is critical to help our kids take a risk, find their voice and connect socially,” Rooney says, adding that several students have made the transition back into regular public schools after finding success at TWLS. Tuition: $19,000. 12325 Hwy. 55; 763.231.2700
Heritage Christian Academy, Grades Pre-K–12
Heritage Christian Academy is an evangelical Christian school that aims to instill and maintain continuity of Biblical principles in students’ physical, spiritual, academic and social lives. Through instruction in art, choral music, foreign language, orchestra, band, drama and speech, physical education, sports, technology, a variety of extra-curricular offerings and field trips, students are taught self-discipline and individual responsibility in the areas of work habits and behavior.
Founded in 1981 as Medicine Lake Lutheran Academy, the 14-student school was located on the same campus as the church in Plymouth, but outgrew this location by 1984, moving to St. Louis Park then Crystal as growth continued. In summer 2002 the name Medicine Lake Lutheran Academy was changed to Heritage Christian Academy to better reflect the ministry and mission of the school, which moved to Maple Grove that year. Tuition: $3,700 –$8,900. 15655 Bass Lake Rd., Maple Grove; 763.463.2223
Ave Maria Academy, formerly Cedarcrest Academy, Grades Pre-K–8
Founded in 1997, Catholic-based Cedarcrest Academy opened its doors with 11 students in grades K-6. The first building was located in Plymouth but due to growth moved in 2000 to Maple Grove. The school specializes in classes such as Spanish, Latin, computers, art and music as well as other programs including an ever-growing athletic program, virtue campaigns, boys and girls Catholic youth clubs.
Earlier this year, the Very Rev. Peter Laird, vicar general of the archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, declared Cedarcrest’s new name: Ave Maria Academy. Ave Maria Academy was chosen through a collaborative process involving faculty, families, students and friends of the school.
Students achieve high academic standards; the staff utilizes a comprehensive, standards-based curriculum, and students routinely score in the top 90 to 95 percent of the nation on standardized tests. Students are taught various courses of study from traditional subjects to technology, foreign language, music and art.
Principal Jason Slattery unveiled Ave Maria Academy’s new colors, logo and branding in April. The school is celebrating 15 years of service to families marked by a commitment to: better academics and outcomes, individual attention, spiritual, personal and character development, and a supportive community. Tuition: $7,021–$7,302. 6950 W. Fish Lake Rd, Maple Grove; 763.494.5387
Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Community, Grades Pre-K–6
Holy Name of Jesus School, located in Wayzata, has a rich tradition in Catholic education, with its roots tracing back to 1919.
As a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, Holy Name’s class sizes do not exceed 18 per class in kindergarten through third grade, providing each student with the individual attention and support needed to excel. Students routinely place in the top 15 percent of all students nationally, according to the Northwest Evaluation Association's Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment. State-of-the-art technology labs, Spanish classes, language arts and educational field trips bring new and exciting experiences each day.
Holy Name of Jesus parishioners have supported Catholic education since the beginning of the parish. Early church services and classes were held in the homes of parishioners, and as early as 1874, the old log church building—the original Holy Name of Jesus Parish—was used as a school for just a few months during the year. As enrollment steadily increased, each grade expanded to two classrooms. Growth has meant the addition of many teachers, programs, volunteers and innovations. Today, Holy Name of Jesus School serves 359 students through sixth grade. Tuition: $1,600–$4,650. 155 County Rd. 24, Wayzata; 763.473.7901
Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Grades 7–12
The administration of this co-ed Catholic college preparatory school believes “students need to be interactive and participatory during the school day in order to learn” and stresses faith-building along with rigorous academics. Enticing extracurricular offerings—the environmental adventures club, peer ministry, mission trips and sailing club—accompany a full roster of sports, including lacrosse, softball, golf and tennis.
Last year BSM initiated the “eight-period day” for senior high. The scheduling initiative features “the BSM hour” during which students can take advantage of resources for academics, wellness, fitness, spiritual growth, or college counseling and guidance services. “Students told us they are increasingly being pulled in many directions,” says Sue Skinner, senior high principal. “These days, more and more young people are out of balance and struggling to manage the daily routine of school, family, work and extracurricular activities.”
The new schedule intends to help students achieve a healthy balance. It also provides an opportunity to learn time management similar to what the students will encounter in college. “The value is most evident through the convergence of three concepts that are central to our work,” says director of marketing and communications Melenie Soucheray: “Catholic identity, academic rigor and body-spirit-mind.” Tuition: $10,860–$12,600. 2501 Hwy. 100 S., St. Louis Park; 952.927.4176
The Blake School, Grades Pre-K–12
The Blake School focuses on a liberal arts curriculum across three campuses in Minneapolis, Hopkins and Wayzata. According to director of marketing and communications Cathy McLane, “the school is best known for its rigorous academic program, talented students, and intentional work around pluralism and community engagement.” Its FLEX (Foreign Language Expose) is unique among area schools and offers languages such as French, Japanese and Spanish to lower-school students.
Other standout features include the leadership of nine department chairs, a college counseling program and Cornerstone, a program for students and parents of color. Off-campus study and internships are encouraged. The three campuses are each visually stunning, hosting a diverse student body with a 9-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio. Blake is nonsectarian. Tuition: $14,100–$23,525. 301 Peavey Ln., Wayzata, 952.988.3550; 110 Blake Rd. S., Hopkins, 952.988.3405; 511 Kenwood Pkwy, Minneapolis, 952.988.3700
City of Lakes Waldorf School, Grades Pre-K–8
At City of Lakes Waldorf School, kindergarteners play with wooden toys and bake bread, third-graders manage a garden plot and write their first written report, seventh-graders discover the world of physics, and the eighth-grade class performs a Shakespeare play. The Waldorf School, which originated in Germany, is designed to educate the whole child—the intellect, and the psychological/emotional and physical wellbeing of each student. Admissions director Caroline Askew understands the pressures of a world demanding we accomplish more faster. But at Waldorf, the approach—although highly academic—savors childhood. The mission of the Waldorf School is to “encourage children to meet the world with reverence, nobility and authentic action,” and as Askew says, “childhood really serves an important role in the development of a human being.”
Waldorf offers small class sizes, with an average of 20 kids per class, and one teacher follows his or her class from first through eighth grades, covering such topics as Roman history, the Renaissance, botany, human physiology, geography and more. Specialty teachers provide lessons in German and Spanish starting in first grade, handwork and woodwork, music and art, and movement and games. The school, located on Nicollet in an old insurance company building, was transformed into a schoolhouse 11 years ago. Now wooden chairs, colorful walls and recorder music fill the halls, and children explore the outdoor play yard (almost) every day of the year. Tours held daily.
2344 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis; 612.767.0293