September 04, 2013 - Opening days at Kingsbury Country Day School in Addison Township are quickly becoming historic occasions.
Reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during Kingsbury's Opening Day ceremony are (from left) second-grade teacher Katherine Ligon and seventh-grader students Alessandra Rollins and Joshua Hansz. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
Last year, the school celebrated the start of its 60th year educating students as a private institution.
This year, Kingsbury marked the beginning of its first year as a charter public school.
"The response has been incredible," said Tom Mecsey, who's headed Kingsbury since June 2008 and will continue to do so as the school begins this new chapter in its history.
Kingsbury, located on a 125-acre campus at 5000 Hosner Rd., has 178 students enrolled in kindergarten through eighth-grade.
"This is a high-water mark for us," Mecsey said. "This is the highest number of students we've ever had."
Prior to this, the largest enrollment Kingsbury ever experienced was 175 students back in 2000.
The school's maximum enrollment is currently set at 180.
According to Mecsey, there are still two openings in the eighth-grade class and 55 students on the waiting list for K-7 classes.
"Within our first month, we doubled our student population," he said.
From the time the school closed as a private institution in June to the time it reopened as a charter public school on July 1, the student body jumped from 84 to 168.
"What we're finding is a lot of the families that have come to us had visited before and were interested in the school, but couldn't afford it or it was too far (away) for them to consider at the time," Mecsey said.
During the 2012-13 school year, Kingsbury was charging $9,500 to educate first through eighth-graders and $8,550 for kindergartners. That was after lowering the previous tuition rates by approximately $4,000.
But now, as a charter school, there is no tuition as Kingsbury receives per-pupil funding from the state like traditional public schools.
"This has given (parents) the opportunity to revisit and reevaluate and that's where a lot of our families are coming from right now, from that prior experience," Mecsey said.
Jane Saxon, a Kingsbury staff member who retired last year after 34 years with the school, returned for the opening day ceremony Sept. 3. She couldn't be more pleased about Kingsbury's new charter status.
"This is the best thing that's ever happened," she said. "I think that a wider and more diverse range of children will now be able to (experience) the advantages of Kingsbury and a wonderful education. That's what we wanted all these years and it was very difficult to achieve with the tuition (rates)."
"I think the word is finally out after 60 years what a great school this is," Saxon added.
Kingsbury is offering two kindergarten classes and one class each for grades 1-8. Class sizes are capped at 18 students so as to allow teachers to continue providing personalized instruction.
Over the next nine years, Kingsbury plans to increase its total enrollment to 360 students. One additional class of 18 students will be added each year, beginning with a second first-grade class in September 2014.
Mecsey noted Kingsbury held a very successful welcoming event/curriculum night last week which he found "incredibly exciting."
"It's one thing to be excited about starting the school year, but it's another thing when you see so many people that are excited about being a part of the beginning of a new school," he said. "It was very positive, very upbeat and very crowded."
Founded in 1952 by Carlton Higbie, a successful financier and industrialist, and his wife, Annette, Kingsbury began with just 13 students when it opened its doors in September 1953.
Today, the school has more than 30,000 square feet of facilities, ranging from historic to modern. The curriculum includes the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years Programme, an environmental studies program, and special classes, such as Spanish language, that are available to students in all grades.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.