Guide to private schools in the Raleigh-Durham area

Nearly all private schools in the Raleigh-Durham region are small Christian religious schools with enrollments of 500 or much less. Thirteen of these schools belong to various Protestant denominations, while two are Catholic. Prayer and spiritual life should be expected to be a vital part of every religious school’s curriculum. Most of these schools require uniforms, but some do not. All are coeducational except Saint Mary’s School, which is an Episcopalian boarding school for girls.

Ravenscroft School is the only non-sectarian private school in Raleigh. Durham Academy is the only non-sectarian private school in Durham. Both of these schools offer a full program from pre-kindergarten to grade 12. Both of these schools are very large in comparison to nearly all the religious schools. Durham Academy has over 1,100 students, while Ravenscroft School has over 1,200 students.

Tuition assistance is available at all private schools. However, most religious schools still expect families to pay some part of the tuition.

Cardinal Gibbons High School,1401 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh and St. Thomas More Academy, 3109 Spring Forest Road, Raleigh both rank at the very top of academic achievement among Raleigh private schools. They are also Raleigh’s only Catholic high schools. Cardinal Gibbons, which celebrated its centennial in 2009, is by far the older and larger of the two, with 1,200 students. St. Thomas More is much smaller, with just 163 students.

In both schools, nearly all students go on to college or university. Even at the larger high school, the student-teacher ratio is one teacher for every 15 students. Roughly 70% of the faculty have at least a master’s degree.

Enrollment is open to non-Catholics at both schools. However, theology is a mandatory course, and student life is based on Catholic values. Most of the students who attend these private schools start in an lower Catholic school in the immediate area. Raleigh has four Catholic elementary schools: Cathedral School, The Franciscan School, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, and St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic School. Durham has only one Catholic elementary school: Immaculate Catholic School.

A particular highlight at Cardinal Gibbons is its extensive fine arts program, covering a wide range of fields from chorus to dance. Some of these programs require an entrance audition. Cardinal Gibbons also has a solid athletic program, with its cross-country, soccer, and cheerleading teams often placing near the top in North Carolina.

As a dedicated college preparatory academy, the curriculum at St. Thomas More is fairly rigid. All students are expected to complete a senior thesis before graduating, on a topical subject of the school’s choosing. Just 2 electives are permitted each year. A “D” mark at St. Thomas More represents a 70% average.

Entrance exams are required by both schools. St. Thomas More also has an entrance interview. Catholic children must have a recommendation from their pastoral administrator. Financial assistance is available, but all families are expected to pay some portion of the tuition.

Charter schools are not included in this article because they are not private schools. Even if they are operated by an education management organization (EMO), they still depend on government funding. They also do not charge tuition.