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Amid slowed economy, some parents forced to pull kids from Spokane-area private schools

After a tough few months financially, some parents are struggling to pay tuition. One school has a unique challenge to face.

SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. — Dr. Remy Newcombe wanted to move her kids to a different Spokane Valley school, and she was willing to pay the costs.

"I loved the public school, but they were just limited in how they could accommodate kids who don't fit exactly in the box," she said regarding the reason she wanted to move her kids to a private school.

Her kids, Anja and Alex, were in the gifted students program at their public school. She started to look at options for other schooling when she said Anja was not intellectually stimulated by her advanced program.  

She decided to spend $16,000 to send both of her children to The Pioneer School, a private school in Spokane Valley.

"I absolutely think the amount of money is worth it," she added. 

The 60-student private school may seem pricey, but school president Betty Burley-Wolf said there is a good reason for the cost of tuition.

"We are totally independent, we don't get any government or church funding," said Burley-Wolf. "We are not religious based, we are not a parochial school."

Credit: Morgan Trau
Alex and Anja play while mom and dad work

Tuition is the only way the school is able to survive the pandemic. But with a struggling economy due to the coronavirus pandemic, some families had to pull their kids out of the school. 

"In general, we are not able to offer financial aid," she said when asked if she could accommodate families who are not able to pay. "We will take a few of them out of the goodness of our hearts."

The school prides itself on putting the tuition money right back into the program, according to Burley-Wolf.

"We pay rent, heat and lights, we buy materials and we pay our teacher's salaries out of the tuition that the parents pay for their kids to come to school every month," she said. 

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, families and schools are facing tough choices ahead. 

"I am glad that the school survives, but for the school to survive, somebody has to be footing the bill. It is what it is," said Newcombe. 

There is always room for a conversation about pay, said Burley-Wolf. However, right now she is more worried about setting up her classrooms in time for August.

"I was able to get a ton of cleaning supplies, that way parents feel safe," she said. "Plus, we are going to spend tons of class time outside and socially distanced."

Credit: Morgan Trau
Cleaning supplies are prepped for the school.

Looking to the future, Newcombe feels comfortable sending her kids to the school, instead of dealing with virtual learning.

"Pioneer will follow whatever health mandates are possible, and it just simply is so much easier for them to do so," she said. "They just have a tiny amount of people compared to the other schools"

"Sending my kids to private school was absolutely the right decision," she added. 

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