When a lot of people think of a public high school, they picture a disorganized and chaotic place, filled with unruly pupils who excel in disarray. Likewise, some think of private schools as filled with preppy, untalented, rich pupils who live their lives in their uniforms.
But these generalities do not reflect the true nature of public and private schools. While they may seem miles apart, the truth is that they are not so different.
Teachers, dress codes and spirit
Both public and private schools have teachers who care about their students and who love their jobs. Conor Wood, sophomore at Alter High School, enjoys the care that his private school teachers put into their jobs. “I love the dedication that my teachers put into their work,” said Wood. “They genuinely enjoy what they do, and they are never afraid to go the extra mile in order to teach.”
Annie Kost, a sophomore at Centerville High School, a public school, harbors the same feeling for the staff at her school. “Even though I go to a huge school, my teachers will always go out of their way to help me understand their lessons,” said Kost.
However, public and private schools maintain a stark contrast when it comes to dress code. While Centerville and Fairmont have virtually identical dress codes – shorts must be fingertip length, no low-cut V-necks or hats – private schools require a school uniform to be worn every day.
Meghan Wilke, an Alter junior, doesn’t mind this requirement. “I actually really like our uniforms. It’s nice not to have to wake up and worry about what to wear school, when all I have to do is put on my uniform,” said Wilke. “I’ve been wearing uniforms all my life, so I’m used to it.”
Fairmont senior Tessa Kellner attended the Baylor School, a private institution in Tennessee, for her 6th through 8th grade years. She had a different experience with private school uniforms. “I like that people at Fairmont can express themselves,” said Kellner. “I had to wear the same thing every day, and I felt like I was just blending into the pack. There was no sense of individuality.”
Both public and private schools share ideals on spirit as well. Bobby Ballard is a sophomore at Fairmont and a member of the football team. “I love the intensity of our school spirit,” said Ballard. “Every chance Fairmont has, we go above and beyond to support Blue and Silver.”
Alter sophomore Wood feels the same way. “One of my favorite things about Alter is our school spirit. When you’re in the student section at a football game and everyone is yelling and screaming, you get really pumped. I love that about my school.”
Phones, lunches, schedules and ID policies
School rules are not always easily discernable as belonging strictly to public or private schools. For instance, Alter and Centerville have strict policies in regard to cell phones, whereas Fairmont’s is much more liberal. Alter and Centerville students cannot have their cell phones out in the hallways or classes while school is in session. Fairmont, on the other hand, permits students to operate cell phones and iPods between periods.
Additionally Fairmont’s Kellner experienced virtually the same rules regarding electronics at Fairmont and the previous private school she attended. “The rules for phones and iPods were pretty much the same as those at Fairmont,” said Kellner. “You could have them in the hallways and between classes, but you could get in trouble if they were out in class.”
The public-private distinction also falls apart in regard to lunches. Fairmont, a public school, doesn’t allow students to leave for lunch. Jenna Beavon is a junior at Fairmont, and she feels that this policy is unfair. “I feel that we should be able to leave for lunch, because we are expected to perform all day at a high academic level,” said Beavon. “I believe that we have earned the trust to eat lunch off-campus, because we demonstrate responsibility for our academic futures every day.”
Alter High School doesn’t allow students to leave campus, either; however, Wood says she doesn’t think it’s an issue for students. “The food is actually pretty good, and if people don’t want to buy lunch, they are more than fine with packing,” she said.
Centerville High School is the exception in this case. It allows junior and senior students to leave campus for lunch.
The daily schedules for both schools are similar as well. While Alter High School gets three minutes between classes, as opposed to Fairmont’s six minutes and Centerville’s five minutes, students at both schools feel that is plenty of time. “Our school is really small, so three minutes is more than enough time to get from class to class,” said Wood.
Chris Johnson, a sophomore at Fairmont, feels that there is plenty of time between classes. “I think that six minutes is more than enough time to get between classes,” said Johnson. “I always get to class with at least 2 minutes to spare.”
Also, both Fairmont and Alter require the possession of student ID badges, while Centerville has no identification policy. “One of the few things that I find annoying about my school is that we have to wear lanyards, which are small laminated cards with our names, pictures, and student ID numbers,” said Alter’s Wood. “It is a demeritable offense [detention-worthy], but it is loosely enforced.”
This is very similar to the rules at Fairmont, whose school planner states, “All students must carry their ID card with them. Students will present their ID cards when requested by a faculty or staff member. Replacement ID cards may be purchased. Failure to verify identification may result in a referral to unit office.”
Many students switch from private to public schools. These students have experienced both first-hand and have developed their opinions on the key differences.
Taylor Fornes, a sophomore at Fairmont, attend St. Charles Middle School, which is a private Catholic school. “For me, private schools were like a popularity contest because there are so few students, and everyone knows everyone,” said Fornes, who disliked the smaller private school. “I switched because I hated the small number of people at St. Charles. There were a lot of conflicts with such a small class, and there was a ton of drama.”