There are over 89,000 elementary schools in the U.S., both public and private. When choosing the perfect school for your child, you need to consider everything from teachers to the physical environment.
Choosing the right school can help set your child up for long-term success.
If you don’t know how to choose an elementary school for your child, we have you covered. Keep reading to discover the 10 questions you need to ask before choosing a school for your kids.
Does the School Meet Our Basic Needs?
As you explore different elementary schools, it helps to know what you’re looking for. Create a list of criteria that are essential in order to meet your basic needs as a parent as well as your child’s needs. While you might feel tempted to send your child to the school at the top of your list, there are a few practical items to review first.
For example, what if you have to arrive at work at 8:30 when your child’s school starts at 9:00 a.m.? Does the school offer early-morning care? If not, you might need to find an alternative.
Instead, you might look for a school that provides a bus route for your children. However, if there’s no bussing and the school is 20 miles away, you might want to continue your search.
Lastly, is it difficult for you to send your child to school with a packed lunch?
If so, ask if the school provides lunches and how much they cost. Some schools offer free lunches for families that qualify.
Make sure a school meets your basic needs as you determine how to choose an elementary school for your child.
What’s the Student to Teacher Ratio?
There are over 1,569,000 kindergarten and elementary school teachers in America. When choosing between elementary schools, consider the individual attention your child will receive from teachers. To start, check how large the classes are.
Then, determine if classes have teacher’s aids or parent volunteers.
A student to teacher ratio of 22 to 1 is large for K through third grade. For fourth and fifth grade, 30 students are a lot for one teacher to handle. Many students benefit socially and academically from smaller classes.
You might want to consider sending your child to a private school with smaller classes instead. Before you make your decision, however, know that many parents take student-to-teacher ratios with a grain of salt. You can read this article to determine if private elementary schools are worth it before making your choice.
How Are Behavior Issues Handled?
Sometimes, it’s uncomfortable to ask this question during parent tours. However, it’s still important to understand a school’s disciplinary climate before choosing an elementary school for your child.
Most schools have a documented, articulated disciplinary policy. Read it over and determine if the policy is strict or lax. Does the school take a more punitive approach by giving children demerits?
Some schools choose positive discipline instead.
Choose an elementary school for your child based on your comfort.
What’s Special About This School?
When learning how to choose an elementary school for your child, differentiate each school based on their unique offerings. For example, many public and private schools offer special focuses, such as:
Determine the school’s commitment to their specific focus. See if it reflects your child’s interests, strengths, and personality traits.
Maybe the school doesn’t have a pedagogical philosophy or theme for their curriculum.
Instead, determine what the school is proud of. For example, the school might:
Have a lot of parental involvement
Provide a spacious student garden
Offer a science program that partners with local doctors
Have a museum docent visit the art program
Offer students access to a well-stocked library
Learn about the school’s values and unique identity before making your choice.
How Much Homework Is There?
Chances are, your student won’t have a lot of homework to do as a kindergartner. Higher grades, however, might require your student to complete a lot of homework each night.
Determine how much homework is expected for your child. See if the school also offers an after-school program to help your child with their schoolwork.
Do You Help Children With Different Needs?
You might need to choose an elementary school for your child based on their unique needs. For example, you might want a school that adapts assignments for accelerated learners. You might choose an elementary school that offers a program for students with learning disabilities.
Whether your child is an accelerated learner or needs additional help, consult the school beforehand.
Look for a school that has the resources and expertise your child needs like help the student learn how to write their numbers.
What After-School Activities Are Available?
If your child needs after-school care, see what sports, activities, or classes the school offers. Some include:
Determine which sports the school offers. Do they have requirements for players and offer transportation? Add these items to your list if your student will need to stay after school.
What’s the Environment Like?
Take a tour of the school. Make sure the physical layout is safe. Are the entrances and exits monitored to keep strangers from getting in?
Make sure you feel safe sending your child to the elementary school in question.
Are Teachers Held to a High Standard?
Ask about the teachers at each elementary school.
Are they happy working there? Do teachers of the same grade follow the same curriculum? Are the teachers united under the same vision and goal for students?
See if you can speak with the teachers before selecting a school.
What Are the School’s Expectations for Students?