By Kim Walter
Since the opening of Randolph-Macon Academy's Middle School in 1995, both day and seven-day boarding programs have been offered to those students. Starting in January, families within a 150-mile radius of the school will be able to use the newly offered five-day boarding program.
The program, offered only to youth aged 11 to 14, or in grades six through eight, gives students a chance to get the full boarding school experience during the week, while also putting them back with their families for the weekend.
Clare Dame, the academy's director of enrollment management, said the school wanted to serve those families that are outside the day school radius who could "probably benefit from a little calm in their lives."
"A lot of these families have two working parents, and it can be a lot trying to get kids to different school activities, sporting events and fit in homework time," she said. "With this program, the students will be here during the week so we can take care of them, get them involved in sports and monitor after-school free time, while also providing a scheduled study hall every evening. Then on the weekends, the families can still enjoy time together."
Students participating in the program would arrive at the Front Royal campus by Sunday evening, giving them a chance to reconnect with other students and also attend that night's study hall. Dame said students can be picked up after classes on Friday, hopefully by 9 p.m., but really whenever it works with a parent's schedule.
"It's not that we had numerous specific requests for the program, it was just sort of our thinking here at the academy," she said. "It was another way to serve our community."
Dame said that many parents in close proximity to the school commute to work in Northern Virginia and the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Additionally, 60 percent of R-MA families live in Virginia, Maryland or Washington.
"We know that our target area for the program is an area that knows and understands R-MA," Dame said.
When considering the program, Dame said the academy looked into other private schools, and how much they charged for tuition and what age range they offered the program to.
"The 11 to 14 year olds are a developmentally appropriate age group for this particular boarding program because they still need those connections with their families," she said. "But the offer is fairly rare for this age group ... I'm not sure we found very many boarding schools, if any at all, that have this type of program for students as young as in the sixth grade."
"I feel like we're really hitting a niche and filling a need that hasn't been offered enough," she added.
The tuition for a full school year in the program is $21,000, plus expenses. Dame says the cost is less than what a parent could expect to pay for most D.C.-area private day schools.
"We were able to price this lower than other schools because we already have the teachers and facilities here," she said. "Really, it's quite a good investment. Parents don't have all the rushing and back and forth, and students get a full-on boarding school experience with a good amount of structure."
Dame said since announcing the program last week, feedback from present and past R-MA parents, as well as alumni, has been positive, and parents of current day school students have shown some interest.
Applications for the five-day program are currently being accepted until January 28. The cost for just the second semester of the 2012-2013 school year would be $10,500.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org