Northland News

Marburn Academy enrollment at all-time high this school year

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When classes resume on Aug. 22 at Marburn Academy, the Northland private school for young people with ADHD and other learning differences will have more than 170 students.

"The most we've ever had," spokeswoman Nancy Paul said last week.

This marks Marburn Academy's 31st year of operation. It is now located in a former elementary school building at 1860 Walden Drive.

The growth is most apparent at Marburn Academy High School, where two modular classrooms and a commons area have been added from last year, school officials announced.

Grades nine through 12 will start the academic year with close to 50 students, according to head of high school Mindy Bixel.

"We've just steadily added students over the years," Bixel said, noting the high school had 18 students when she started as a teacher at Marburn nine years ago.

Bixel has been head of high school for four years.

"I think the word is out," she said. "I think our reputation is solid. The community now knows and trusts that we are actually the school we say we are."

"We figured that over the past five years, we have averaged over a 6-percent growth in enrollment, and so this to jump to 10 percent in this period of recession, we find that to be significant," Paul said. "We really feel that our message, a school that's specifically designed to serve children who are ADHD and dyslexic ... to offer and prepare children for college, is what we do best; it's what makes us different."

Academy officials frequently point out that, in spite of their learning difficulties, 100 percent of Marburn graduates are accepted into college.

This comes at a steep price: slightly under $20,000 annually for lower and middle division students and closer to $21,000 at the high school level, by some accounts. However, Paul pointed out that many students attend on scholarships, including a new one this year called the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship Program, named for former state Rep. Jon Peterson, a special needs advocate.

The program allows students who have an individualized education plan, "which means they qualify for special education services from their home school," to transfer that funding to another school, according to Paul.

"For example, a student diagnosed with ADHD or dyslexia receives extra funding from the state because they qualify for special education," Paul wrote in an email. "Now that extra funding would follow the student to a school like Marburn for help paying for tuition."

According to the school's website, Marburn Academy raises more than $350,000 each year to provide direct financial aid. In addition, a tuition loan program allows families to defer a portion of the payments until the student transitions or graduates from Marburn Academy.

Financial aid packages can include both direct grants and loans. Also, many families qualify to deduct tuition costs from their federal income taxes.

The unprecedented increase in the number of students attending Marburn Academy High School has also resulted in additional faculty members, according to Bixel. When she joined Marburn, there were three teachers. Now there are five full-time instructors.

"It's fun to watch them grow," Bixel said of the students. "They come in at all different levels, obviously. Some are confident when they walk in the doors. Some are very cautious and timid and not sure they can succeed. It's nice to see those students grow into their own confidences."

She added that students graduating from Marburn are able to "advocate for themselves at the next level" regarding the type of education they need.

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