Important questions to ask when choosing a school for your child –
Choosing whether to send your child to public or private school is a challenge for any parent – how much tuition do I have to pay? Which school is my child assigned to? What is the student-teacher ratio? Here are some tips on which school is best for your child.
“The main difference between private schools, whether independent, parochial or other types of private schools, and public schools, whether traditional district or charter schools, is obviously the tuition fees. says Carol Ryan, director of enrollment and advancement at Menlo Park Academy in Cleveland. “At the end of the day, what really boils down to any given family is: what are your options, and within your options, what is the community culture and approach to education and success of a school? There is no perfect school. There is simply the best fit. I think for a lot of parents, the first thing is to understand what their student needs in terms of an educational community? What is their style of learning and how do you find a fit for it?”
There are mainly three types of public schools that parents will notice when researching potential schools for their child. Most public schools are closed enrollment, in which the school will only enroll people who live in their district. There are districts that offer open registration. Additionally, there are charter schools, which do not receive local dollars, but are publicly funded and open enrollment. With many types of private schools, parents can find traditional, non-religious private schools; boarding schools, where students live in school full-time during the school year; or language immersion schools, where schools provide instruction in English and a second language throughout the day. Montessori schools allow children to develop natural interests and activities rather than using formal teaching methods. Specialized private schools work with students with special needs. Religious schools are also an option and can vary from Catholic schools to Jewish schools to Seventh-day Adventist schools. Finally, Waldorf education focuses on learning through the arts and creativity. The arts are used in their formal teaching methods. Some schools require an entrance exam to help schools screen potential students for admission. Not all students applying for K-12 admission to certain schools are necessarily admitted.
“Public schools serve students from a particular district and must meet local, state and federal requirements,” says Elissa Hyatt, admissions coordinator at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy in Cuyahoga Falls. “Private schools generally have more leeway and can make decisions independently.”
Most parents believe that the main difference between private schools and public schools is the tuition fees. Public education offers a free option, close to home, often with free transport to and from school.
Be sure to have a conversation about tuition and other expenses and figure out what’s best for your family.
Take a decision
Before choosing to enroll your child in a particular school, be sure to check with the admissions team and ask any questions you have about the school.
“The first thing parents should do is check out the website,” says Jay Fowler, director of elementary school and Montessori programs at Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills. “You can get a good idea of what you’re looking for, and they usually give you important facts about this website. Then I would call the school’s main office or the admissions officer. This allows you to arrange a visit and I think is probably the best first step for any parent interested in a school. Come see the school in person and get the chance to see the facilities, get the chance to see the teachers in action and get the chance to see the students working. Just get a general vibe of what the culture looks like.
“When considering a school, attend an open house or host a ‘side’ day for your student to experience a typical school day,” says Hyatt. “Start the process early as space is often limited and applying early is in your best interest.”
It is important to take note of everything you are looking for in a school before enrolling your child.
Is your family looking for a school with a religious affiliation? Are you looking for a single-sex school? Are you looking for a school with smaller classes? Are you looking for a school that serves students with special needs? Answering these questions can help determine what is best for your child.
“What are the things I look for in a school and how can I prioritize them? Ryan said. “What are you looking for and do you think will be best for your child?” What’s good for this year, what’s good for the next two years? I think it’s important to look at how schools have performed over the last five to 10 years, but not to look at their performance over 30 years and not to look at their performance over the last three years. What you’re really trying to figure out is with their current leadership, how are they doing? The school could have been fantastic, but they started with a new chef the year before. How will this change the direction in which the school is moving? »
“I would say take a look at your child,” says Kristin Kuhn, director of elementary school admissions at Hathaway Brown School in Shaker Heights. “What do they like? What are they interested in? What type of learner is your child? Have you noticed that your child is someone who is really active and needs to be active or is your child a bit more quiet and reserved and needs more one on one the more you understand a little about who your child is i think that can then help to dictate what you are going to be looking for in a school setting. Do you want a big school? Do you want a small school? Do you want a religious affiliation? Do you want a single sex environment? Right? Do you need that school location? Is school near your work? Do you need transportation? So I think having a few of these answers in mind is a great place to start.
Consider all aspects of the school before applying. What extracurriculars are offered? How much money will be spent on extracurricular activities and supplies? What courses are on offer that interest my child? All of these issues are important to consider.
“For example, I’m going to meet families and in their local school districts, they’ve had to cut back on their music program,” Kuhn says. “So now the only way to get music is if the family has to pay extra after school or on weekends so their child can learn to play the flute, for example. I think for some families , knowing that some of these extracurricular activities that you currently pay for, you might find part of your child’s regular school day at another school is a great thing to ask when looking at schools and that one wonders “will my child learn to play a musical instrument?” ‘Will my child learn to play football or do I have to enroll him in a football league?’ “Will they get a chance to dance or have art? ‘What do you offer and what don’t you offer?’ ‘What’s going to cost me more?’
Once a parent has viewed the school’s website, visited with the admissions team, and spent time getting to know the school and what it offers, parents can then begin to apply at school. When a parent fills out an application form, it does not necessarily mean they are locked in the school – feel free to fill out the form and ask any questions that may arise while filling out the form.
“We recommend that you complete the application; there’s no harm in doing that,” Fowler says. “It gives you the opportunity to look a little closer and see if the child is the best fit, because we want to make sure that every child will succeed and follow their best educational path. Generally, when certain families have more specific questions, we ask them to fill out the form because once we know the child, the family and the situation a little better, we may be able to answer their questions a little better.
Some parents may think that sending their child to a private school can increase their chances of getting into a prestigious university. Whether your child is accepted or rejected from a university depends not so much on where your child went to high school, but rather on their individual academic achievement.
“I truly believe that all schools, all teachers, and all colleges have incredible opportunities and can provide such great roadmaps to success,” Fowler says. “A lot of it depends on the child and their own individual willingness to take advantage of what is provided to them.”
Parents may find it difficult to choose where to send their child to school. Ultimately, consider your child’s social, emotional, mental, and academic needs when choosing the best fit for your child.
“What will most prepare your child for the future they are pursuing?” said Hyatt. “What kind of community would your student thrive in? What types of teachers and administrators will help guide your student? Knowing your end goals will help you make decisions now.
“I think there’s incredible value in building a strong foundation and a love of learning and that starts at a young age,” says Kuhn. “So whether it’s a public school, a parochial school, or a private school, it’s about finding a strong foundation in which their social and emotional needs are met and valued. Just creating that level of learning and feeling comfortable with who they are as a learner is incredibly valuable. Those early years, those elementary school years are so precious to build a foundation. You’re trying to build that foundation, the social, the emotional, the academics, the love of learning and figuring out where your child can get that from.