There are many reasons to be stressed out during the moving process, and being a parent is at the top of the list. If you have school-age children, the decision of where to move adds yet another level of difficulty to the buying process. Even without children, people want to know they are buying in a “good” school district. Whether you have kids, plan to have them in the future, or are thinking resale value, schools are a big factor in any move.
So, how are people supposed to evaluate schools and school districts when they know nothing about them? Go around knocking on random doors in a neighborhood? Yes, actually. Talking to real people about their neighborhood is one of the best ways to get the scoop on schools, builders, traffic, and the general vibe of the hood. It’s best to gather school intel from a variety of sources, so you will have an accurate picture of local schools, both public and private.
Begin to research as soon as you know where you are moving. Broadcast your upcoming move from the mountaintops, or on social media, whichever is more feasible. Contact friends, neighbors, and family members. You never know who has knowledge of an area, no matter how far far away it is. Ask your current and future coworkers (if you know where you will be working, obviously).
Search online. The State Department of Education ranks schools and offers other statistics, as does greatschools.com, which also includes school-specific feedback from parents, students, and teachers. Some people plan to homeschool their kids, while others decide to homeschool after researching traditional schools in the area. If you are considering homeschooling, start with the laws in your soon-to-be state, as they vary in their requirements. Then look on Facebook for state and local homeschool groups. The support of other families is important emotionally, as well as a good way to stay informed.
Neighborhood Facebook groups (How did people function pre-Facebook?) are also a great way to get real insider information from families who live in the area. Most of these groups have moderators who accept (or reject) people who want to join the group. Don’t fret, acceptance involves a mouse click, not an IQ test.
When you’ve narrowed it down to a few schools and have the opportunity to visit in person, do it! A staff member will most likely offer a tour of the school, which gives you a chance to see whether it’s kept clean and orderly and that students seem happy. And never underestimate the importance of your “gut” feeling.
You’ll also want to set up a meeting with the principal. Know what you want to ask before you arrive, and don’t be afraid to be specific. Ask for a copy of the school’s discipline policy. Find out if they have programs that benefit your child. If your high schooler has a passion for theater, ask about a drama program. Do you have a special needs child? What resources are available to them? Does the school encourage parent involvement? Is there a PTA or PTO? If yes, you may want to talk to the president or other board members. Is there an afterschool program? If so, who runs it? Will there be structured activities and athletics?
When you know which school your children will be attending, register them as soon as possible. Whether you are homeschooling or sending your children to a traditional school, be prepared with required documents, such as immunization records and transcripts.
Finally, don’t forget to ask your agent for information about area schools. Your agent is a wealth of knowledge and their job is to help you make an informed decision. Let the research begin. You’ve got this!