FAIRFIELD – Maharishi School has been rated the No. 1 private K-12 school in the state by niche.com.
The website, which has more than 120 million ratings and reviews, gathers data from the Iowa Department of Education as well as reviews from students, parents and teachers to create these rankings.
Not only did it judge Maharishi School as the top private school in the state, it gave the school a No. 1 ranking in four other categories: most diverse private high school, best college prep private high school, best boarding school and best private high school overall.
Maharishi School was also No. 3 of 86 in best high schools for science, technology, engineering and math.
This marks the third year in a row that Maharishi School has received No. 1 rankings from niche.com. Richard Beall, co-head of the school, said these rankings are very important in attracting new students, especially from overseas.
Before the pandemic, Beall and other school officials made annual trips to Asian countries such as China, Vietnam and South Korea. He said the parents he met with want to know they are sending their children to a top-ranked school, and being able to show them the rankings from niche.com puts their minds at ease.
Maharishi School has long been among the most diverse schools in the state, and that diversity is stronger now more than ever, thanks to its boarding program. The boarding program includes 12 students from six countries, and if it were not for coronavirus and the federal government’s unwillingness to issue visas, even more countries would have been represented in the school. Beall said the boarding program was on pace to be completely full for the 2020-21 school year before the pandemic hit.
The boarding students include people like sophomore Reinhard Stein, who’s from Germany and who lived in Brazil before coming to the U.S. Stein said the school year is going well, and that he’s enjoying his time in the boarding house.
Fellow sophomore James Nguyen and his brother William live in the boarding house, too. James said he and his brother try to make friends with everyone in the school, and so far they’ve succeeded. He mentioned that a group of students gathered at Waterworks Park last weekend for a picnic.
“I like Maharishi School for its small classes,” James said. “If I have any questions, I know they will be answered. I also like that there are so many cultures in one place.”
Eighth-grader Dalia Reisner is in the boarding program, having moved to Fairfield from Chicago. She likes the people at the school, and said there’s always something exciting happening in the boarding house.
Jocasta Tran, a senior, is from Vietnam, and before this year was going to school in Alabama. She remarked that she likes the small classes, where she gets to know her classmates well. She and her friends like hanging out in Fairfield’s square.
Beall left Fairfield in 1996 to found a public charter school in Charlotte, N.C. Years later, he was lured back to Iowa to work at Maharishi School. He assumed that he’d miss the diversity he’d grown accustomed to, but upon his return, he found that Maharishi School was even more diverse than Charlotte.
In 2010, Maharishi School began having international students stay with host families. That worked well enough, but the feedback the school received was that those students weren’t spending enough time around their peers, and that parents wanted them to live with other students in a boarding house.
In 2018, the school renovated the basement of Hildenbrand Hall, a dormitory at Maharishi International University just across the street from the school.
“The biggest challenge has been finding food that will satisfy the diets of kids from six different countries,” Beall said.
The school’s enrollment management director Michelle Paton noted that the students each have dorm responsibilities, such as cleaning bathrooms or other common areas. Beall said the school sees its boarding program as a key source of its enrollment growth in the future.