North Hollywood's Oakwood School often is compared to two nearby private institutions: Buckley School in Sherman Oaks and Harvard School in Studio City.
Oakwood's tuition this year was $5,975 for kindergarten through sixth grades, and $7,075 for seventh through 12th grades. High school books cost an additional $150 or so.
Buckley's tuition was $5,900 for elementary students and $6,800 for secondary, plus fees of $400 and $700, respectively, for books, athletic uniforms and other items. Tuition at Harvard cost $6,500, including books, for all grade levels.
"But we tell our parents that the true cost of sending a child to Harvard is about $10,000 a year," said Harvard School business manager Rob Levin, explaining that parents are expected to contribute to fund-raising efforts.
Whereas Oakwood offers crowded campuses and faded buildings, Harvard boasts 24 acres, large classrooms, vast expanses of playing fields, a pool, an elaborate pool house and tennis courts. Buckley has 20 tree-shaded acres, a sports stadium, a gymnasium and an indoor pool. Buckley high school students take their lunch at richly varnished tables set in a glen beside a decorative waterfall and pool.
Oakwood headmaster James Astman said there are two reasons for the seeming contradiction between tuition costs and the school's physical plant. First, the school, which was founded in 1951, is the newest of the three and thus has the smallest endowment. As Oakwood's alumni age, said Astman, their contributions will grow.
"The other reason is that we keep our student-teacher ratio lower than anybody's," he continued.
Harvard and Buckley officials said their schools' ratios are about 11 to 1 compared to Oakwood's 10 to 1.
The median pay for Oakwood teachers is $30,600 a year, high for a private school, but lower than in most public schools.