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South County Public Schools Get Surprise Influx of Private Students

October 24, 1994|JODI WILGOREN

South Orange County public schools saw a surprising influx of students from private schools and home-schooling programs this fall, though enrollment in area private schools is also on the rise.

Saddleback Valley Unified Supt. Peter Hartman said 584 of his district's 902 new students this year came to the district from private schools. In Capistrano Unified, nearly 700 of about 2,000 children new to the district came from private schools or home schools, Supt. James Fleming said.

"We feel good about it because there is an impression out there that people are leaving public schools in droves and moving to private, and we are finding and experiencing just the opposite," said Fleming, who plans to discuss the issue at his district's board meeting today.

Fleming and Hartman both said they think the tight economy has led people to reconsider the expense of private school, and that the state's new open enrollment policy that allows people to attend the public school of their choice, regardless of where they live, has made the public system more attractive.

In addition, Fleming said, Capistrano Unified's intense marketing campaign over the past year about its schools of choice program, and publicity over the district's new schools, may have drawn some people to the schools.

Private school enrollment has stayed steady in Orange County over the past five years, according to the Orange County Department of Education.

This year's countywide enrollment data for private schools is not yet available, but a review of about 100 local schools shows that most have boosted their enrollment.

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