Families Pay Private High School Deposits While They Await Public School Acceptances

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Thousands of parents will take a costly gamble this week as they claim seats for their children at private high schools before finding out if they’ve earned spots at leading public schools.

The Department of Education attempted aligning the notification process for public school acceptances with private school deposit deadlines, but was forced to shift the schedule back by two weeks because of Sandy.

Students now will hear whether they’ve been accepted into public schools two days after the March 13 deadline to submit private school tuition deposits, which can range up to $8,000.

“It’s an unfair problem,” says Les Krevsky, a guidance counselor at Ronald Edmonds Learning Center MS113. “Students are jumping through hoops just to apply to these schools and it would be helpful if the city and the private sector finally coordinated the whole process.”

The Department of Education changed the date of its public high school notifications last year to February, a month before the private school deposit deadlines. Before then, it was a rarity for families to make an informed decision about where to enroll before the deposit deadline.

Fretful phone calls from parents around this time of the year are routine, Krevesky says.

“They have to make decisions on matters that are out of their control,” he says. “So, I’ve made efforts to contact private schools and extend the deadlines.”

Some schools have the flexibility to make exceptions for families and push the cut-off date, he says. But it’s typically done on a case-by-case basis.

Gina Malin, Director of School Advisory Services at the Parents League of New York, recycles the same piece of advice to families in these predicaments.

“We tell them that they have to read their contract carefully before they sign on the dotted line,” she says “Be prepared to lose your deposit.”

Families that pay the deposit and later back out could be responsible for the entire year’s tuition, she says.

“They have to know what they’re getting into before they roll the dice.”