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Cedar Rapids' Summit Schools to add sixth-graders

Private school hopes to expand into seventh and eighth grades some day

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By Alex Boisjolie, The Gazette

CEDAR RAPIDS — The private Summit Schools will add sixth-graders next academic year, its board of directors has decided.

Summit, a non-religious school in Cedar Rapids, currently has more than 100 pupils in its preschool through fifth-grade programs.

”Parents and families were asking about the school’s expansion to sixth grade, and we want to be able to listen, and in a responsible way, respond to what the needs of the community are,” said Larisa Bickel, director of the school.

The school formed an exploratory committee of parents, board members and staff to consider the feasibility of expanding. One thing members heard was that the older students didn’t feel challenged enough after entering other schools.

“We felt like the former students that were going out to other schools and giving us feedback found sixth grade tended to be difficult. Summit gave them such a good start they felt like they were not being pushed or stretched enough,” said Paly Afridi, a parent of two in the school and member of the exploratory committee.

With a cap of 16 per class, the accredited school’s high teacher-to-student ratio allows pupils to get more attention and hands-on training in classes, Afridi said.

Bickel said it is uncertain if the school will have enough enrolled to create a separate sixth-grade class next year, leading it to combine the fifth- and sixth-grade classes for now. But it still has the objective of separate classes in mind — as well as some day expanding into the seventh and eighth grades.

“Our goal starting from now through next year is opening a new middle school program,” she said. “We would want to do it in a feasible manner and it needs to be something that is quite different in the area and not like other schools.”

Summit’s yearly tuition ranges from $7,000 for its programs for 4- to 6-year-olds up to $8,000 for 6- to 11-year-olds. Summit offers income-based and special case-based financial aid.

“Compared to other private schools in the community, we are higher. But that is because we are completely independent and we aren’t subsidized by any entity,” Bickel said. “Tuition and fundraising is how we make ends meet.”

The school, at 1010 Regent St. NE, asks prospective sixth-grade families to complete and submit a candidate profile with a $250 deposit as soon as possible. Any family interested may apply.

“We are such a small community. We have lots of programs where older kids are with younger ones and families are always in the school. We don’t have busing for example, and so parents are coming in mornings or afternoons and picking up their kids from the curb with one of our staff,” Bickel said. “There is such a tight link with everybody. It really gives it a family feel.”

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