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priorities in choosing a school

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
We are sending our daughter to pre-K next year and are trying to choose between two schools and are having a very hard time making a decision. Most likely she'll attend this school for 9 years and they are both great options but have different things to offer. Having never had a school aged child before, I really don't know which things will end up mattering more to us. I would love some feedback from people who already have kids in school!

School 1 - great community, lots of festivals and family activities, just under a mile away (we would walk there in the good weather), decent academics but not as good as the other school. principal is uninspiring, teachers seem okay but maybe not quite as dynamic as other school

School 2 -decent community but great academics, love the principal and teachers from what I can tell, this school is 1.5 miles away across railroad tracks so probably wouldn't walk but there are other people around who we could carpool with

So basically which is more important community and walkability or academics and administration?

Any thoughts?

Thank you!
post #2 of 14
Well I have never lived close enough to a school I liked to have walkability be a factor for me...my DD is 4 and honestly, it is so hard to know which is a better fit til they get a little older, I am still struggling to decide where to send her and where I think she'll be happiest. Also, the principal and mostly teachers matter a lot to me, I need to feel very positive about the person my DD will spend most of her days with...academics matter to me, but I want a school that encourages critial thought, not stepford children, so I would look closely at what kind of academics they are promoting, more conformist kind of attitudes or real thought, KWIM? DD is at a school now where the academics are great but the older kids seem so...robotic? Identical? I'm not loving it. Good luck!!
post #3 of 14
I'm not sure how much it would matter in the later years, but our current pre-school is basically around the corner (after day-care several miles away), and I love it! For drop-off and pick-up we just up and run, you can ask other parents to help out easily if you have a short-term scheduling conflict and we've been able to have playdates for our (socially struggling) DS simply by having people walk by and asking them to drop in (and kids always want to because our messy, full-of-toys yard looks so interesting!). I can tell DS feels "ownership", too. I also like that there is a community we feel part of (it's church-based but the whole neighbourhood sends their kids there, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, whatever), even though I don't think I'll make my best friends there, or haven't yet.
I'm pretty sure it isn't the best environment academically I can offer him but other options (language immersion, Montessori) were just too much of a hassle transport-wise and also, in the case of language immersion, financially (to be clear, it is play-based/developmental pre-school and so would the LI have been - I wouldn't have wanted an academic pre-school, just a little more structure and challenge than the current one has to offer). For pre-school, the nearness and community aspect outweighed the academic aspect for us.

The transition to first grade will have us re-evaluate our priorities, because the academic aspect will of course be more important then and kids are more discerning about making friends...there is the uninspiring public elementary around the other corner as it were, a very well regarded Catholic school next to my husbands workplace a few miles away,a very well regarded Montessori yet a little further...and 5th grade will be yet another transition. I don't envy you -I would feel overwhelmed if I felt I needed to make this decision for NINE years - how would you want to know your kids needs in nine years? Are you sure there isnt' room to take this one or even a few years at the time and reevaluate as things change?
post #4 of 14
Originally Posted by herenow2 View Post
We are sending our daughter to pre-K next year ...

School 2 -decent community but great academics
academics were not important to me at all for pre K, or even K. I'm a fan of waiting on academics.
post #5 of 14
As you plan to have her there for nine years then I would say the academics and dynamic staff would be more important to me.

Walkability wouldn't factor for me at all unless it was the only difference between two otherwise equal schools.

Festivals/family activities are nice but, not what I'm sending my children to school for so again, would only count if all else was equal.

From the tone of your post it sounds to me like you prefer school 2?
post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Linda on the move View Post
academics were not important to me at all for pre K, or even K. I'm a fan of waiting on academics.
Yeah, I actually agree. I should have clarified more... they are both pretty much play-based preschools, the academics I was referring to are at the elementary school.

Thanks for everyone's input!
post #7 of 14
There's a big difference between great academics and great teachers. For me, I want to know that my son is going to feel nurtured, loved, happy, and excited to learn. Afterall, he spends more hours awake at school than he does at home sometimes, unfortunately. If they are experiencing all of the above, the "academics" will come in time. I wouldn't even worry about stuff like grades and test scores until like... 3rd grade? I think learning is very, very important, but I don't think that high test scores are more important than loving teachers.
post #8 of 14
People are what truly make a school.

Last year DS's school moved from one location to another. A lot of things about the school changed when that happened. It changed my driving time, the neighborhood/community feel, how school events are set up, etc. What didn't change was the great director and teachers. They still are flexible and willing to work with parents. They still care about the kids. They still follow the same academic philosophy.

You liked the people at school #2 better, so go with #2.
post #9 of 14
Originally Posted by katelove View Post
As you plan to have her there for nine years then I would say the academics and dynamic staff would be more important to me.
I missed that!!!

I change my answer and vote for the inspiring principal and the dynamic teachers.
post #10 of 14
*I weigh the day-to-day experience over the few in a year events.

*I strongly believe that one of the ways I prepare my kids for the future is to teach them to get from home to where they need to be on a daily basis without a car. It's a major life skill in my book, and so walking daily would weigh heavily for me. That said, I don't automatically rule out crossing train tracks as "not walkable." Of course, I have no idea what your area looks like. Some communities simply aren't walkable (or bike-able for that matter). Some communities actually have public busses. Riding such busses also appears on my list of "basic life skills."

*How do you know the quality of the academics? Are you going based off state test scores? Those show a very incomplete picture. Comments from friends? How do their kids' academic needs compare to yours? Which fancy private high school they attend (careful there -- other things like socio-economic status creep in there)

*Does something prevent you from switching in a few years if you reconsider? (My DD's school runs two independent "instructional systems" in the same building. We're switching systems next year. No biggie.)

Spend a few days visiting each in different classrooms. Which feels right?
post #11 of 14
The people, teachers, principal would be most important to us. While having a good community can be good, if it is not supported by a fantastic staff, it may or may not last, and could actually become a source of problems or conflict (I can elaborate on that if you'd like).

We are sending both our oldest to a brand new school. No community yet, and the students are from 3 different cities. But, the staff, all of whom come from public schools, are amazing! They totally sold me on the school. I can see their excitement, feel their joy about what is possible at their school, and have a great deal of confidence in them.

I have met only one other family so far. I am not at all concerned about that. I plan to be a presence there, getting as involved as I can, so I will be a part of the community form its inception.

Good luck to you!
post #12 of 14
Originally Posted by eepster View Post
People are what truly make a school.

You liked the people at school #2 better, so go with #2.

Actually, thinking back on it now, I should really amend my post to add that the deciding factor for us at the time was the head classroom teacher -I just had a much better feeling about her than I had about the other two teachers I interviewed and DS has borne me out, he has a really good rapport with her. It was only after that I realized the strong positives of a "neighbourhood" school. However, I think that if you feel the teachers aren't right for your child, everything else pales in comparison.
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
Thanks for all of the thoughtful considerations. We are going with the school that is further with the better teachers for next year, but I am letting go of the "we must stay at the same school for all nine years" mentality. I will probably revisit this decision next year.
post #14 of 14
I know I'm late weighing in, but I think it really depends on your dd. You could have twins with very different needs and one school might meet one child's needs and the other school might meet the other child's needs. I don't subscribe to the idea that there is one best school out there for that fits all kids.

I live in a community with probably the best public schools in our state where something like 93% of high school students go on to college, many Ivy League and similarly top tier colleges, but even though I really like the idea of public schools and the idea of these public schools in particular (there are a couple of different language immersion programs in elementary schools, and many, many cool opportunities in the middle and high schools) and I REALLY REALLY like the idea that they're FREE, these great schools were not a good fit for my dd1. She just would have floundered and would have had a really hard time. So, we're paying for a private school that is much more crunchy hippie with a project-based approach and lots and lots of outdoor time. She needed a very small nurturing environment and would have been completely overwhelmed at public school. I think it's the best of the available options for her in particular, but there are kids who have been at our private school who did not do that well in the less structured atmosphere. They needed more structure and teacher-led academics.

Anyway, my answer would have depended on your dd's personality which was probably how you based your decision in part. Hope things go great for her this year!
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