PORTLAND – The economy is bad, but not so bad that it’s affecting enrollment at independently run high schools, which are charging as much as $50,000 in yearly tuition.

Thirty-one high schools from across New England participated Wednesday night in the Breakwater School’s first independent high school fair.

The gymnasium at the school for pre-kindergarten to grade 8 was nearly filled with middle school students and parents looking for a good fit.

Several school representatives said their classes are full for the coming school year, but they came to Portland because it doesn’t hurt to get an early start on recruiting for 2012.

Sean Dundon of Portland, who went to the fair with his son Eamonn, an eighth-grader at Breakwater, said his son will likely end up at Portland High School, but they wanted to see what other high schools had to offer.

“From what we’ve seen, there seem to be some very generous (financial aid) packages. To know that there are options out there is important,” Dundon said.

Dave Sullivan, head of school at Breakwater, said it made sense to invite a large group of schools, not just for the benefit of Breakwater students, but for the entire Portland area.

Among the 31 schools represented at the fair were Portland, Deering and Casco Bay high schools, as well as Fryeburg Academy, Gould Academy in Bethel, Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Mass., and Proctor Academy in Andover, N.H.

Kimberly Wike, Portland High’s assistant principal, said she wasn’t intimidated by the presence of some of New England’s most prestigious boarding schools. Wike said about 25 students from surrounding towns attend Portland, mostly because of its diversity. Students from 36 countries attend the high school.

“Portland is a place where anyone can come and where everyone fits in,” Wike said. “I have just as much, if not more, to offer.”

Stephanie Morin, director of enrollment and marketing at Fryeburg Academy, said boarding school tuition is $41,000 a year.

“The U.S. market (for students) is in decline, but that doesn’t mean we’ve stopped trying,” she said.

Like other independent high schools, Fryeburg taps into the international market to sustain its numbers.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be reached at 791-6365 or at:

[email protected]