Getting The Most Out of a School Visit
It’s enrollment season in Wichita Falls. (As a admissions and marketing director at Wichita Christian School, I am keenly aware of this season, and all the questions and stress this can cause parents.) I have read many how tos and don’ts over the course of time and have received inspiration from these great sources that provide even more information about visiting schools: PBS, The Guardian, Parents & Great Schools.
Whether your child is two years old or going into their senior year, you may be looking into new options. My best advice to parents who are touring schools is this: prepare questions and bring a sheet of paper to write down answers and new information.
A website or friend can only provide so much! Make sure to tour the schools on your list.
Even a short tour will identify many of a school’s strengths and weaknesses. Touring is the only way to evaluate a school’s intangible —but essential—factors like the school’s climate, the presence of dynamic teaching, the engagement of the students, the quality of communication and respect between students, teachers, administrators, and parents, and the overall sense that the school offers a safe and inspiring learning environment.
Before Your Visit
- Do your homework. Read about the schools you’ll be visiting. Examine their reviews on Google, Facebook, and local news outlets. Talk to other parents and community members.
- Contact the school. Most schools conduct regular school tours and open houses during the enrollment season — typically in the spring. Call the school or go online to schedule a visit.
- Ask and observe. Jot down your questions before your visit.
Questions To Ask:
- Does this school have a particular educational philosophy or mission?
- What is the average class size?
- What is this school’s approach to student discipline and safety?
- How much homework do students have?
- What kind of library resources are available to students?
- How is technology used to support teaching and learning at this school?
- How do the arts fit into the curriculum?
- What extracurricular opportunities are available for students?
- How do students get to school? Is free school busing available?
- Does the school have an anti-bullying policy?
- How does the school address individual needs of students?
- How does this school support students who have academic, social or emotional difficulties?
- What professional development opportunities do teachers have? In what ways do teachers collaborate?
- Does the school offer Physical Education (PE) classes?
- What are some of the school’s greatest accomplishments? What are some of the biggest challenges this school faces?
- Do classrooms look cheerful? Is student work displayed, and does it seem appropriate for the grade level?
- Do teachers seem enthusiastic and knowledgeable, asking questions that stimulate students and keep them engaged?
- Does the principal seem confident and interested in interacting with students, teachers and parents?
- How do students behave as they move from class to class or play outside?
- Is there a Parent Teacher Association? What other types of parent involvement take place at this school?
- How well are the facilities maintained?
- What is the school’s approach to discipline?
- How much free play time do the children have?
- Are meals and snacks provided?
- Is potty training required?
- Is the school accredited or licensed?
- What curriculum is followed? What are the primary resources?
- Do children nap regularly?
- What are some highlights of this school’s curriculum in reading, math, science and social studies?
- What criteria are used to determine student placement in classes?
- How does this school keep parents informed of school information and activities?
- Is quality child care available before and after school?
- How much outdoor time do students experience each day?
For Junior High:
- How does the school guide and prepare students for major academic decisions that will define their options in high school and beyond?
- Does the school offer tutoring or other support if students need extra help?
- Are world language classes offered to students?
- Does the school make an effort to provide activities that create a sense of community?
For High School:
- Does this school have a particular curriculum focus?
- What kind of emphasis does the school place on college preparation?
- Does the school have a good selection of honors classes?
- What percentage of students take the SAT or/and ACT?
- Where do students go after they graduate? How many attend four-year college? Are graduates prepared for college?
- Are counselors available to help students make important decisions about classes?
- Is college counseling and support available?
- Does the school offer a variety of career planning options for students who are not college bound?
- Does the school staff set high expectations for all students?
- Does the school have a tutoring programs so students can get extra help if they need it?
- How do students get to school? Is there a parking lot, and are buses available?