Changing schools and moving can be stressful events, even if the entire family is excited about the move. The purpose of this article is to give you a checklist of all the things you may need to think about as you orchestrate your move and what you may need to do when changing schools.
In an ideal world, in advance of moving you can visit potential schools, meet teachers, and get a good sense of the school environment. But what if there isn’t time, or cost or distance make a scouting trip prohibitive? What if we are faced with not being able to physically be in school because of Covid?
When you are having to search for a school long distance, the following steps will help make your decision a little easier:
Make a wish list
Clarify the kind of school you – and your child – are looking for. What’s your ideal school? Is it public? Private? If they are high school are they looking for vocational or technical schools? Take into consideration your child’s abilities, interests and learning styles when making this list.
#RELOTIPS Whether it’s a public or private school you are scoping out, you’re not always assured a spot. Make sure you have a few fall-back schools if you can’t get into the school of your dreams.
Your child's school needs
✔ Academics (e.g. test scores, student-to-teacher ratio, teacher training)
✔ Special services and programs (e.g. IEP, advanced placement)
✔ Learning style (e.g. lecture-driven, hands-on)
✔ Subject matter focus (e.g. STEM, arts)
✔ Extracurriculars (e.g. sports, theater, student government)
✔ Diversity of the student body
Your own needs
✔ Other parents share your values
✔ Volunteer opportunities
✔ Parent-teacher relationships (e.g. PTA)
✔ Logistics (e.g. transportation, before and after school care)
Connect with other parents
With zoom, google hangouts and other online meet-ups becoming more prevalent in every day schooling, finding and talking with other parents is starting to become a little easier. Every parent knows that other parents are the best source of school information. So put the word out on social media or call in a favor from other friends.
Do a Google search on the school and consider setting up a Google news feed, so you’ll get news about the schools you’re considering. Look on YouTube as well. Many schools post videos by students, parents, or the school itself. Parents For Public Schools helps parents navigate the public school system and has chapters in many cities. Check to see if there is one in your new town.
Use online school resources
Research the schools. The difference between a top rated school and a school that lags behind its peers could be as simple as living on one side of the school boundary. Also, if your child has special needs or unique goals (i.e. they had been in a foreign language immersion program), you will need to find out what is available where you are moving to.
Contact the school of choice directly
Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few schools, contact each one directly. All schools have strengths and weaknesses, so make a list of your requirements. Indicate what’s a non-negotiable for your kid, and what’s a wish list item.
Have a list of questions available that are important to you.
- What makes your school different from others?
- Describe the community and families who are part of your school.
- Does the school have a mission statement or educational philosophy?
- What type of projects will my child be asked to complete?
- How do you accommodate children with different learning styles?
- How much homework is typically assigned?
- How do you handle behavior problems or bullying?
- How do you monitor and measure student progress?
- How can parents become involved?
- What kind of technology do you offer and how often is it updated?
- What extracurricular opportunities do you offer and which are most popular?
If visiting schools isn’t possible, schedule phone calls with principals and ask your list of questions. As you narrow your options, set up phone calls with the teachers your child would have. In today's post-Covid world a video call is most likely the best option.
#RELOTIPS Don’t be afraid to change schools if one isn’t working for you. If your child is unhappy or does not live up to your standards, try again at another school.
The final details
After you’ve done your research and you are in the final planning stages of your move and you have a school lined up check with the school and ask what paperwork they’ll need in advance of your arrival, such as school transcripts and current immunization records.
Sometimes it takes weeks to several months to gather all of your child’s records to provide to a new school. Make sure you start this process sooner than later.