Tinsley Moore laughs Thursday as she reads "Strega Nona" during the Emerald Mountain School's summer cooking camp. Enrollment at Emerald Mountain School currently is down five students, but Head of School Sharon Mensing said there's still plenty of time to fill the open spots before classes start at the end of this month.

Photo by Scott Franz

Tinsley Moore laughs Thursday as she reads "Strega Nona" during the Emerald Mountain School's summer cooking camp. Enrollment at Emerald Mountain School currently is down five students, but Head of School Sharon Mensing said there's still plenty of time to fill the open spots before classes start at the end of this month.

Steamboat's private schools still working to grow enrollment

Enrollment at Routt County's three private schools remains much lower than it was four years ago

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— Dave Entwistle can think of several reasons his private school west of Steamboat Springs is preparing to start another academic year with fewer students.

Several Heritage Christian School families have left town.

Some students wanted to participate in more of the electives offered at nearby public schools.

And there are the financial considerations, not to mention the students who followed their friends to public school.

“I don't know all of the reasons, but we're very optimistic about what we're doing this year,” Entwistle said. “Smaller (enrollment) numbers means a better opportunity to work with those who are gifted and have strong abilities, and also those who need a little extra help. This is the Lord's school, and we're going to do the best job we can each year.”

Heritage Christian School ended last school year with 80 students. Entwistle said 60 to 65 students are expected to start classes in the K-12 school next week.

This year's enrollment is about 40 students below Heritage Christian's enrollment of 107 students in the 2009-10 school year.

As Entwistle and the heads of the two other private schools in Routt County prepare to welcome back their students, they are adapting to the lower enrollment numbers that haven't rebounded much in the wake of the economic recession.

Chris Taylor, head of The Lowell Whiteman School, said Thursday that his campus hopes to have 70 students this academic year, but it looks like enrollment will start in the low 60s.

The rustic campus off Routt County Road 36 started last school year with 59 students, a number that was far below the 106 students the school taught in the 2006-07 school year.

In downtown Steamboat, the K-8 Emerald Mountain School has taken less of a hit.

Head of School Sharon Mensing said her school is working to enroll five more students to reach their ideal enrollment of 60.

Mengsing added that she's expecting some of those slots to be filled before classes start at the end of this month.

“In past years, we have gotten sort of a flurry of applications in the summer, and we're expecting that same thing to happen this year,” she said.

The low enrollment at Steamboat-area private schools comes despite the rollout of new brands and recruiting efforts at each campus.

The schools all have taken to social media to promote student achievements.

In February, Christian Heritage School became Heritage Christian School, and the campus launched a new website.

This month, The Lowell Whiteman Primary School renamed itself the Emerald Mountain School to create a stronger identity for itself.

And The Lowell Whiteman School has started to recruit students from China.

Taylor said two students from China are expected to start at Whiteman this fall.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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