Choose The Right School For Your Child Part 1

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In America, the main factor that drives which school your children will attend is where you live.  Which neighborhood, which district, which policies, what schools are within accessible distance to get  your children to.  If you are looking to move to another area, there are several questions you may want to look into to find the best school for your child. 

1 What is the School Choice Policy For Your Area?  Some school districts will allow children to attend a public school of their choice if the school is under its maximum enrollment.

 Other areas will give families a choice of two different schools.  Look into the new district's policy to see which schools are available.  

2  What Schools Can Your Child Attend?  Beyond asking about the school choice policy for a district is finding out which schools are actually available to your children.  This is determined by not only the age and grade level of your children, but also the design and intentions behind the different schools in a district.

3 What Schools Of Choice are available to your children?  States and school districts across the nation have come up with a  variety of different school approaches to meet the unique needs and wants of families.  There are magnet schools, charter schools, language immersions, homeschool hybrid programs and more.  Typically, students must apply for entrance to these schools.  These schools are often very popular, and can only admit a limited number of students.

 If your child doesn't get accepted the first year, find out if they can apply in later years if there are openings that arise.

4 What Are The Requirements and Deadlines For Applying?  Schools of choice usually have application deadlines, so that the school staff can review applications and notify families who have been accepted in time for the new school year to start.

 Local neighborhood schools will also have a timeline so that school administrators can assign students to different teacher classrooms.  Knowing when the schools would like your application and enrollment materials will go a long way to getting the right placement for your children.

5 Transportation - How Will Your Child Get To and From School?  Will your child ride the school bus?  Will you be dropping them off and picking them up everyday?  Is there a reliable carpooling network of parents to get children to and from school?  If your child will be walking to and from school, be sure to walk the route yourself to see how long it takes and how safe it is.  

6 How Will This School Meet Any Special Needs Of Your Child?  This is a critical question for children with disabilities.  If your child has a 504 plan or an IEP, the new public school district must meet your child's needs.  It is important for parents to understand that this does not mean that a new school district is required to meet your child's needs the same way as a previous district did.

 

Public schools must provide for the educational needs of all children under FAPE (Free and Appropriate Education) federal requirements.  These requirements mean that schools must provide an education that is appropriate for the abilities of each child, but it does not have to be at a premium level.  The greater or more unique the needs of your child, the more expensive it can become for a school to provide for your child.  

If you are the parent of a special needs child, you probably already know that you must advocate for your child on a continual basis.  When moving or looking at other schools, be sure that you understand exactly how the new school will meet the needs of your child.  Quality can vary considerably between school districts.  Knowing how a school and district are willing  meet your child's needs will help you narrow down your choices.

Once you have narrowed down your choices with these questions, you need to take a closer look at how each school runs with Part II of this article, More Questions for Picking The Right School.

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