Wooster School has announced that it would be phasing out its Lower School program over the next two years. According to Head of School Matt Byrnes, "While we have seen record enrollment growth in our Upper School program, which is up over 50% in the last five years, we have been unable to maintain healthy enrollment numbers in our Lower School."
Byrnes cited regional and national trends as contributing factors, including a steadily declining birthrate over the last ten years and the rising cost of college. "By all accounts, these economic and demographic realities aren't going to change in coming decades, and will continue to threaten the educational and financial viability of lower school divisions in independent schools," Byrnes explained. He went on to say that, "On the other hand, our Variable Tuition program has opened up the Wooster experience to more local families, and we are seeing very strong interest and enrollment in our programs for grades five through twelve. So while we regret the necessity of phasing out our lower school program, we are excited to be able to focus more fully on our strengths as a school. We are committed to continuing to thrive as the most personalized and innovative fifth through twelfth grade school in the region."
Wooster Board of Trustees President Leon Weaver echoed Byrnes' comments, adding that a special committee of the Board and school administrators had spent two years studying all aspects of the situation. "In the end, the facts were irrefutable: although we have a first-rate product in the Lower School program, the market doesn't exist to sustain the kind of educational experience our families rely on, nor provide the financial stability it is our job as trustees to ensure. Due to a number of demographic factors, these circumstances are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future."
Wooster School will continue to offer a comprehensive lower school program for students in grades three through five in 2019-2020, and fourth and fifth grade options in 2020-21, before settling in to a fifth through twelfth grade program in 2021-2022 and beyond.