Public education vs. private school

March 22, 2019

I’ve learned firsthand that public and private schools are two completely different worlds.

When I first came to Santa Fe at the age of 7, I enrolled in Piñon Elementary School, a public school. I stayed there from second to fifth grades. I enjoyed my first two years, creating bonds with a small group of friends. However, in my last two years there, I lost motivation and felt the kids were changing for the worse. A lot of them used foul language and displayed “attitude” toward the staff and other students.

My parents and I decided to enroll me in the private Rio Grande School for sixth grade. There, I easily made more friends and was able to get back on track in my education. There were a lot more activities and extracurricular programs for the kids, including field trips to Ski Santa Fe and a weeklong outdoors retreat at Cottonwood Gulch.

The school was significantly smaller than Piñon and much more “white.” There was very little diversity among the students and staff: In my class of about 25 students, there were perhaps four or five students of a different ethnicity.

For high school, most of my class from Rio Grande ended up going to Santa Fe Prep, but because we are Catholic, my family chose St. Michael’s High School.

At St. Mike’s there were a lot of rules to follow, such as wearing a uniform and attending Mass once a month during school. It was easy to get detention for small things, and after my first year, my grades started to fall. I made friends there, but unlike Rio Grande, where I knew everyone in my class, the student body was large enough that it was nearly impossible to get to know each student.

There was greater diversity there than Rio Grande, however, which I liked. I embraced the change during my first year, but in my second year, I didn’t feel comfortable following all of the school’s rules, and I was getting easily frustrated with my teachers. I didn’t feel free, so I convinced my parents to send me back to the public school system.

I’m currently a student at Santa Fe High School, where I’ve regained enthusiasm for academics and feel more like myself. While there are distractions and bad influences, it’s easy to avoid them if you follow your intuition and do what you think is right. The school’s staff also offers plenty of support for students to help them overcome personal problems.

After experiencing four different schools in Santa Fe, I preferred the public school system. However, I can’t say I did not enjoy my private-school time. Choosing between public or private education is a personal decision, though your financial status will play a role if you want to attend a private school.

Lincoln Byrd is a sophomore at Santa Fe High School. Contact him at linbyrd@gmail.com.