I am often asked, “Why doesn’t Chapin have a high school?” Although parents of eighth graders immersed in the secondary school admissions process sometimes wistfully dream of a high school, there are a number of good reasons that Chapin does not continue past eighth grade.
First, Chapin’s mission and philosophy commit the school to a focus on the elementary years, the most important years in the educational process. As I witnessed repeatedly as the Headmaster of a K-12 school, no matter how hard everyone tries, the high school dominates the whole school. College admissions, athletics, and the increasing myriad of social and emotional issues facing older adolescents unavoidably overwhelm the rest of the school.
Second, without a high school, the experiences of our students, especially in grades 5-8, are dramatically more positive. There are not the sometimes negative influences of older students. In addition, our eighth graders are our “seniors,” not just the oldest middle school students in a bigger school. Our seniors are given significantly greater opportunities for leadership than would be available otherwise.
Third, in a relatively small K-12 school, many students are ready for a change by the time they get to high school. Particularly if they have been at the school for a long time, they are eager to expand their friendships, experiences and horizons. At Chapin, our eighth graders are ready and eager for the challenges of a new school.
Finally, to develop a comprehensive secondary academic and extracurricular program of the quality that we would wish to offer would be enormously expensive. As Chapin seeks to increase its efforts to raise funds, it is far better for the school to focus on continuing to improve the educational experience of our elementary and middle school students.
For all these reasons, Chapin has not, and is not, considering the addition of a high school. Chapin remains “dedicated to the belief that lifelong habits of the mind and heart are formed in the elementary and middle school years.”