Kids in School? Check out the school systems before you buy a
If you're looking to buy a new home and you have school-aged
children, the quality of the school systems in the towns or
cities you're considering needs to be a major component of your
decision making process. As you're looking for homes, be sure
you research the schools, both public and private, in the region
where you'll be living.
First, what sort of school would you like for your children?
Does one of your kids want to seriously pursue athletics? Then a
school with a strong team sports culture might be a perfect fit
for that child. If your child is not an athlete, you may want a
school system with more emphasis on health and individual
physical development, with many options for non-athletes, and
less emphasis on team sports.
Do you have a budding genius in the family? An honors program or
advanced placement program is a plus. Do you have a special
needs child, or one who needs just a bit of extra help? A school
with a solid special ed program and lots of built-in support for
every child would be a good fit. Is your child artistic? Pay
attention to a school's arts and music programs, and the variety
of course offerings and extracurricular activities for students.
Some schools offer the bare minimum, while others have a rich
selection of activities for kids. Once you've defined your
children's needs in terms of a school, you're ready to ask
Your Realtor may very well have a lot of information on the
schools in his or her area, and information from the real estate
agency is a good start; but you need to go beyond that. State
and local governments should offer basic information on the
supervisory unions in the area; many of them supply information
on the Internet. Once you've identified a contact person at the
supervisory union, make appointment to meet and quiz him or her
about each school in the district. The staff of the supervisory
unions will often have a good sense of the atmosphere and
learning culture in each school, and when asked specific
questions, should be able to suggest a school compatible with
your child's needs.
Once you've gotten an inkling of the schools you've like to
explore, make arrangements to visit each school and meet with
the principals. It's a good idea to prepare questions in
advance; some suggestions are to ask about the academic
programs, and in the case of high school, any vocational
training or guidance available. Beyond that, consider the
following: Does the school have a written policy on bullying and
cliques? Is there a variety of extracurricular activities for
different students, and active encouragement for all students to
become involved in the school? Or is there a dominant football
or basketball culture that leaves a lot of kids on the sidelines?
Safety and security are surely important issues; does the school
deal with these issues by enforcing a strict disciplinary code,
or by creating an atmosphere of acceptance and diversity?
Talk to members of the local PTA to find out how the school
administrators and the school board deal with parent concerns.
If you've got time before your move, subscribe to the local
newspaper and follow local issues regarding school. And, if you
can, connect with former and current students, and get their
view of the school; kids' opinions are often very different from
the official viewpoint, and need to be taken into account.
With kids in school, a big part of family life is going to be
centered around issues of learning, extracurricular activities,
and school culture. Doing some research
on the school systems, and finding a house in a district
where you have a positive impression of the schools your
children are going to be attending, will increase the chances
that living in your new community will be a positive experience.