North Country School Increases Enrollment Due to COVID-19 & Shifting Trends in Education
North Country School (NCS), a boarding and day school located in Lake Placid, New York for students in grades 4th – 9th, has seen an increase in enrollment due to COVID-related concerns around education. On their 220-acre campus, students are nurtured and challenged in classrooms as well as the great outdoors through a place-based program which offers a humanistic education rooted in respect and responsibility for self and others, as well as an emphasis on sustainable living and natural life cycles.
During the initial months of Covid (March-May 2020), NCS saw a 21.4% decrease in applications, and enrollments were down 35.5%. However, from June-August 2020, NCS experienced record-high interest with 48.5% increase in applications and a 68.7% increase in enrollments. For the 2020-21 school year, NCS had a 64.3% increase in domestic boarding enrollment compared to the 5-year average resulting in our highest ever new domestic boarder totals at NCS. For the upcoming 2021-22 school year, NCS has increased enrollment by 76.5% year-to-date compared to the most recent four years. NCS also have enrolled twice as many new students year-to-date than they had by this time in the year prior to Covid.
“The impact of COVID-19 on the private schools overall has been significant across the board,” explains NCS Executive Director Todd Ormiston. “At NCS, with our rural location, boarding option, and unique academic approach, we experienced record levels of interest and enrollments over the past year and the trend is continuing despite things beginning to get back to normal. Families consider private boarding schools for all sorts of reasons, but what we consistently see is that once they make that move, their reasons for continuing and often for then sending younger siblings are that the experience has benefits far beyond what first brought them to us. We’re seeing that now as the Covid restrictions ease and more of the country is vaccinated. The students and families value the experience here far more than just an option for in-person learning or as a way to attend school outside of a city.”
“We enrolled our daughter at the North Country School because her experience at Camp Treetops, NCS’s sister institution, had been transformative and because we believe deeply in NCS’s approach: bringing a joyfulness to learning; instilling in a child a sense of responsibility and competence; and nurturing curiosity, humaneness, and a reverence for the natural world, ” says David Lenter, whose Raia is a 4th grader at NCS. “We would have cherished this approach in normal times; during the global pandemic and in the coming years, the values that NCS embodies are even more vital. We are in awe of how powerfully the NCS approach has revealed itself each day in our daughter’s lived experience at school.”
“After living abroad in East Africa for 10 years, we moved our family back to the U.S. when it became clear that the COVID pandemic would significantly disrupt school and travel. We identified several potential schools for our 9-year-old daughter Julia, but we wanted a school that was committed to in-person learning and we fell in love with North Country School (NCS) after our first tour,” explains NCS parent Nick Handler. “We have been involved with several international schools over the years, but we quickly realized that NCS offered a very unique educational experience from the educational philosophy to daily arts and music classes, integration with a working farm, connection with nature and a diverse, international community of students. Not only did NCS seem like a great school for our children during a global pandemic due to the outdoor classrooms and small class size, but we felt this was a community our family could be a part of for many years to come… After one year at North Country School, our daughter is even more curious, creative, compassionate, and conscientious than ever and she loves going to school every day. And, the thing we value most as parents is the passionate community of teachers and leaders at the school, who go above and beyond to inspire, support, and build deep, genuine relationships with the students. At this age, most kids have one 4th grade teacher. At NCS, Julia has over ten different teachers and mentors who support her unique passions and learning journey every week and we could not be more grateful for this rare educational experience.”
“When our creative, energetic 11-year-old son was at home doing virtual school last March, it very quickly became clear that remote learning would not work for him. We had heard about North Country School and were intrigued by its empowering hands-on, experiential approach to learning,” explains Skye Raiser, whose son Monty is a 6th-grade boarding student at NCS. “When it became clear by the end of the spring semester, 2020 that schools in the fall would likely be on-line, we knew that North Country would allow him to thrive, be creative, be social, be busy, be challenged, be independent and continue building his self-confidence. I honestly feel that his being about to go to North Country saved his life. A year of remote learning would have crippled him academically and socially, and put untenable stress on our family and home given all the changes Covid inflicted on our lives. We have missed the everyday interaction and family dinners, but the positives so vastly outweigh the negatives, and we see how much he is achieving that we never regret our decision. We get to FaceTime twice a week for 20 minutes and can email anytime, so we feel connected. The risks of NOT sending him to North Country were far greater than sending him. Seeing all our son has gained this year, seeing all that a boarding school and North Country, in particular, has to offer, the innumerable skills that would never be achievable in a local day school (working on the farm, taking care of the animals, fixing the hiking trails, cooking, socializing with people of all ages, collecting sap for maple sugar, doing laundry!) has left no doubt in our minds that this was the right move, Covid or no Covid. He is learning for life not just college. And our perspective on what education should be has changed— for all of us.”
About North Country School
Founded in 1938, North Country School (NCS) sits in the heart of the mountains in the six-million-acre Adirondack Park, of which two million acres are forest preserve. NCS has long practiced a progressive, hands-on, and place-based education for boarding and day students in grades 4-9. Our 220-acre campus includes extensive vegetable and flower gardens, a working farm, a maple sugaring operation, a six-trail ski hill, a thirty-six-route rock climbing crag, two riding rings, and over 3 miles of recreational trails, as well as a state-of-the-art performing arts center and teaching/learning kitchen.