Katy touted as "hot spot" for private education options

Thursday, February 4, 2016
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Parents in Katy are getting a growing number of private school options. Steve Campion reports.

KATY, TX -- Katy might just be your best bet If you want options when it comes to your child's schooling.

If you live or drive around the area, take a minute to notice all the "schools of choice" especially at the corner of N. Westgreen Boulevard and Wheat Snow Lane.

The British International School of Houston plans to relocate and open a campus there by summer. Their new $80 million and 275,000-square-feet building is hard to miss. Principal Andrew Derry called it state-of-the-art and an opportunity to expand in a growing community.

"We did a lot of research, a lot of demographic research on communities around Houston. We chose Katy because it has one of the best independent school districts in the country. What that means is parents here are very discerning about their child's education," said Derry. "We've got waiting lists as well. I think in this arena competition is a healthy thing. It pushes us to be better."

Derry said they plan to build a performing arts program at the school in partnership with the prestigious Julliard School. Tuition at the British International School of Houston starts at $20,000 a year.

Just down the road, you'll find another option. This one is free.

Calvin Nelms Charter School has been operating for more than a decade in Katy. Principal Michael Dean told abc13 they're a school of choice funded by state dollars.

The school educates about 300 students between 6th and 12th grades. Dean said they offer a smaller, more intimate learning environment compared to some public schools in Katy ISD. He also said they're able to offer a wide-range of academics including a dual credit program in partnership with Lone Star College.

Dean said, "Twenty kids in a classroom or less. It gives us an opportunity to be more personal with our kids. Get to know our kids. It gives the kids a safe place to go. It's free and public. We're constantly looking at next year. We're already enrolling kids for next year. So there is a big demand. We always have a waiting list in every grade level so if someone moves or something doesn't work out with a student, we always have someone ready to step in and fill a spot at school."

For parents in Katy, most we spoke said great things about Katy ISD public schools. Some said they moved to the area for the educational opportunities. Destyn Zarate told Eyewitness News she hasn't considered private schooling for her three children. She's confident the public school system can provide stellar results.

"When we first moved here one of our neighbors said, 'Why do private school because the money that is fed into these schools?' It's like a private school in a public setting," remarked Zarate. "If you look around, the schools are doing their best. They're up there. Rankings don't lie. It's a hot spot for sure."

Other parents like Susie McKaskle agree with Zarate. However, McKaskle did move one of her daughters to a private school. McKaskle said she wanted her daughter to be in a smaller school.

"She just started at Faith West in January. The decision was a tough one but Woodcreek Junior High has a lot of students. For that child, we thought it would be better for her to be in a smaller environment," said McKaskle. "The Christian aspect is a huge benefit as well. She's loving it."

Eyewitness News reached out to Katy ISD for comment on this story. The district released the following statement.

"Katy is a highly-desired destination, drawing thousands of families from all across the country. In Katy ISD, we pride ourselves on embracing new families and students, and ensuring that each child who walks through our doors receives an unparalleled learning experience in a safe and welcoming environment. Our teachers and students perform at a high level, and every year we recognize hundreds of students and staff for their academic, fine arts, and athletic achievements on a state and national level. Our teachers work hard to ensure our students are well-prepared for college and beyond. In fact, the Class of 2015 accepted over $21 million in scholarships, and the number of Katy ISD students participating in AP exams increased by 13 percent, with more than 7,700 students earning a score of three or higher on these exams. This is just a glimpse of the District's many accolades, which demonstrate year after year why so many families choose Katy ISD for their children's education.

The fact that we are projected to continue growing by approximately 2,000 students every year is truly a testament to the success of the District, and we can assure our families that their children will always be in excellent hands thanks to our outstanding staff. In fact, Katy ISD was recently ranked as the best school district in the Greater Houston Area by Niche, a review site providing rankings and insight into more than 120,000 K-12 schools.

Just as families choose to move here because they believe in Katy ISD and the quality education their children will receive here, they can also choose to move Katy because of the growing availability of private and charter schools in the area. The District welcomes these partners in education. Together we serve the many diverse needs and interests of families and students in this rapidly growing region."