It's December! That means it's time to start searching for school options for the 16-17 school year! While parents and students are just now settling into this school year, in Memphis, schools are gearing up for the next year and applications are due in just a few weeks. Having worked in both the public and private school setting, spots at prime schools go fast. Whether you are searching for a public, private, or preschool option, there are definite questions you should ask when you tour and apply.
Questions to ask the Admissions Director or Head of School:
- Teacher/student ratio varies from school to school. Ask specifically about class size - from the youngest grade to the oldest grade. Are there teacher assistants in each room or grade level?
- Academics! How will the school prepare your child for the next step? Whether that step is going to college, middle school, or kindergarten - you want your child to be ready. Ask what curricula the school is using to teach math, reading, science, and social studies. What other subjects are included in the teaching day? What schools do students go to after graduation?
- Ask about the gender balance if you are looking at a co-ed school. Or, ask questions about the advantages of a single-sex school if that is your choice.
- Special Classes are a huge selling point for a school. Ask what options the school provides... art, music, foreign language, technology, STEM, library, science, PE, bible, etc...
- Every child learns differently and at a different pace. Be sure to ask about options for gifted children, as well as options for children who struggle academically. How do the programs work? Is there an extra cost for the program?
- For families with working parents, before/after-school care is a need. Check and see if the school offers an on-site before/after-school program. Be sure to see the space and meet with the director. Ask about any after-school activities that are offered: sports, gymnastics, ballet, chess, and/or computer classes. Some programs include homework help as well! Ask about summer programs as well!
- What does a typical school day look like? This varies widely from school to school. Do the students get to go outside everyday for recess? Are there adequate breaks between learning? Can students bring a water bottle to class? Is there a dedicate snack break? What is the school's philosophy of learning?
- Parent Involvement - is there a parent association board that helps at the school? Whether you volunteer to be a room parent or head up the school fundraising committee, parental involvement is important. When parents are invested in the school, everyone benefits.
- What family nights or events does the school host? Donuts with Dad to Family Movie Night to Field Day to Christmas Programs - ask about these events. It shows that the school is reaching out to the families and is desiring to create a welcoming place for your child and your family.
- We all know that private school is an investment. However, many private schools offer scholarships and financial aid. This usually involves a separate application process, but it is definitely something to bring up when you apply!
- When are applications due? For most private schools, applications for the 16-17 school year are due by January 1st. For optional schools in Shelby County, applications will be accepted beginning Friday, January 29th. For preschools, most start their application process in late January and early February. It is best to call the school directly to find out the exact dates that pertain to that school.
- School Hours/Options - from half-day to full-day - what hours is the school open?
- Most schools have some sort of dress code. Be sure to ask if specific uniforms are required. If so, are there certain stores/vendors where uniforms must be purchased?
- Finally, be sure to schedule a tour during the school day. Ask to see everything - from the lunchroom to the classroom to the special classes. Spend time observing the teachers and the students. Do the teachers and students seem happy and engaged? Is everyone friendly and welcoming? Is this a place you would want to spend your day?
Our children spend more time at school than at home - especially once they enter kindergarten. At times, choosing a school can seem like a daunting task. There are so many options in the Memphis area. Finding the school that fits your child and your family is important! Whether you are looking for a two-year old kindergarten class (yes - that is a thing) or at a high school, it is necessary to find a school that is nurturing, academically challenging, and mission oriented. It is your child's second "home."