KENNEWICK -- Ralph LeCompte calls the Kennewick School District a blessing.
The principal of the Catholic St. Joseph's School in Kennewick said that while his school provides an excellent education to its students, it needs public schools to meet all the educational or co-curricular activities some students or families want or need.
His middle school students who want to participate in track and field in the spring or football in the fall play for nearby Park Middle School. Students with special needs go to one of several nearby public schools for part of the school day to receive services.
Parents, teachers and administrators of private schools said that while they love the faith-based curriculum and family environment of a private school, public schools fill an important need and they still rely on them.
"What the public schools do is absolutely miraculous when it comes to the big, diverse population (of students) they work with," said LeCompte, who was previously an administrator at Southridge High School in Kennewick.
Most private schools don't have the funding to meet all the needs of special-needs students, making it a necessity to use services provided by the local public school district.
At the same time, private schools cannot field all the sports that public schools provide for financial reasons or because a private school is too small to support that many sports rosters.
Some private school teams need public school infrastructure.
For example, Liberty Christian School in Richland uses the stadium at Hanford High School for football games.
Kim Luoma, a fourth-grade teacher at Bethlehem Lutheran in Kennewick, recently worked as a kindergarten student teacher at Eastgate Elementary School in Kennewick as part of her master's degree program.
She said the quality of educators between public and private schools is similar, though teachers in public school teachers contend with larger classes and have more diverse student populations.
And most private school students, at some point in their education, end up at public schools. Only three private schools offer a high school education in the Tri-Cities.
Debi Cheatwood, whose oldest child is enrolled at Kennewick High School, said she was warned by a lot of other parents that she'd be disappointed with a public high school because of the size of the school and the amount of interaction with teachers. Cheatwood said her experience has been contrary to those warnings.
"I've been pleasantly surprised," she said.