Are you looking for a therapeutic boarding school for your struggling son or daughter? The team at Shepherd’s Hill Academy (SHA) has put together a list of things to consider when you evaluate a prospective school.

boarding school oversight


As you research, it is important to understand the school or program’s student to staff ratio. This refers to the number of students a single team member may be responsible for during their shift. This is just one of many things that will assure you are comparing apples with apples in your search.

While programs claim a particular ratio in their marketing strategies, parents should do their due diligence to affirm that these ratios mean what you think they mean.

SHA’s Student to Staff Ratio

Let’s take SHA’s student to staff ratio and break it down as an example. Below, are four questions that every parent should have clarified.

Shepherd’s Hill Academy provides each enrolled student with a safe 5-1 student to direct care staff environment. With the exception of our identified ratio exemption policy, this ratio is enforced twenty-four hours a day seven days a week.

How Does the School Define Staff?

When searching for the right school or program, be sure that the student to staff ratio is accurately defined and understood by the same measures. Some schools and programs may claim a high student to staff ratio by loosely defining the term “staff.” The word “staff” should refer to the direct care staff that are directly responsible for the mentoring and oversight of each student and their activities 24/7.

For example, though there may be a therapist on campus, the therapist is not likely to be directly in charge of any one student. Yet, some schools and programs may consider their therapist—along with many other staff members in various capacities not directly caring for your child—a factor in the ratio. Calculated this way, SHA would have two staff members for each student! So, it is important for parents to understand those details prior to enrollment.

Shepherd’s Hill Academy follows a 5-1 student to direct care staff oversight policy. Our direct care staff definitions align with those of the state of Georgia and SHA’s governing policies.

Does the Ratio Fluctuate Depending on the Time of Day?

It is possible that a school or program will have a cut-off period for maintaining their advertised ratio. For example, during the day a school or program may have one ratio, while during sleeping hours the ratio may be drastically reduced to lower their operating costs.

SHA cuts no corners here, knowing that these hours can often be vitally important, not only for mentoring, but for securing safety as well. Therefore, Shepherd’s Hill Academy’s ratio does not fluctuate. We maintain the same 5-1 student to direct care staff supervision ratio 24/7 to assure optimum therapeutic value and safety for our students.

Does the Ratio Fluctuate if My Teen Advances in the Program?

Take into consideration the environment may change as your child advances throughout the program. Again, each program is different; so, in your research be sure to establish the specifics. The school or program you are looking into should have clear policies outlining any change to the original student to staff ratio.

For example, at SHA when a student graduates to our Next Step Program, the student to direct care staff ratio could be raised to 6-1. This is permissible because students in the Next Step Program have earned more trust based on their improved behaviors. Therefore, increased student privileges from SHA therapeutic personnel and direct care staff are congruent with better attitudes, character and behaviors.

Are there Identified Exceptions to the Policy?

Shepherd’s Hill Academy consistently provides a 24/7 student to direct care staff ratio of 5-1. However, there are some obvious exceptions to this policy that unique circumstances might require. One example of this may be in the case of some kind of campus emergency that is beyond anyone’s control. In this case, it may be possible for a the student to direct care staff ratio to fluctuate until whatever the emergency might be is resolved.

In your search for a therapeutic boarding school for your troubled teen, we hope you will consider Shepherd’s Hill Academy. If not, it’s still our hope and prayer that this article proves to be a valuable resource for helping you find the program that is right for you.

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