Disclosure: Choosing a school for your child is an exciting time for your family. Just think of all the friendships, memories, and life lessons. However, it can also be an overwhelming experience. To help you prepare for this important decision, our sponsors at Trinity Episcopal School have compiled 12 questions to ask when choosing a school.
12 Questions Parents Should Ask During A School Tour
- FOR WHAT PROGRAM IS MY CHILD ELIGIBLE?
Most schools offer multiple programs that are typically separated by age. For example, at Trinity, we offer two separate programs for younger children: Les Enfants for children ages 15 months through four years old and a Preschool program for Prekindergarten and Kindergarten. Be sure to research which programs are available for your child and the benefits they offer.
2. DOES THE SCHEDULE MATCH YOUR NEEDS AS A FAMILY?
Every family has different scheduling needs and must identify a program that supports your schedule. Are you searching for year-round options? Part-time? Ask when the school day starts and ends, and if there is before- or aftercare or special summer or holiday hours. Additionally, understanding the typical day-to-day flow of activities can give you a better sense of what your child will experience. Sample schedules can be very informative during the comparison process.
3. HOW MUCH IS TUITION, AND WHAT IS INCLUDED?
Be sure to ask what the tuition covers and what other costs a family can expect to pay throughout the year. Items such as lunch, snacks, aftercare, supply and technology fees, uniforms, and field trips can add up quickly. Additionally, many programs offer payment plans, financial aid, and/or scholarships. At Trinity, our goal is that a family’s ability to pay should not prohibit any child from attending. Each year, Trinity awards over $900,000 in need-based tuition assistance.
- WHAT LICENSES AND ACCREDITATIONS DOES THE PROGRAM CARRY?
Different states and localities require different licenses and accreditations for programs that care for children. Do your best to understand what is expected in your area and find out whether the programs on your list meet those requirements.
5. WHAT CERTIFICATIONS AND EXPERIENCE ARE REQUIRED OF STAFF, AND WHAT IS THE STAFF RETENTION RATE?
By understanding what is required of the staff, you can ensure their values align with yours. The teachers caring for your child are perhaps the single most important factor for you to consider. It is vital to the success of your child’s education that you trust them. Furthermore, low faculty turnover shows stability, which is helpful for children as they experience the education process. The average faculty and staff tenure at Trinity is 10.3 years.
6. WHAT IS THE STUDENT-TO-TEACHER RATIO?
Countless studies have suggested a high correlation between low student-to-teacher ratios and increased student success. The fewer students a faculty member is responsible for, the more individualized attention they can give their students, and the more value a child will gain from their interactions. Trinity’s Preschool has a 7:1 student-teacher ratio, which allows for teaching in large groups, small groups, and one-on-one situations accommodating a broad range of individual differences.
7. WHAT IS THE SCHOOL’S COMMUNICATION PHILOSOPHY?
Understanding what the parent-school relationship and communication looks like—what it entails and how often it can be expected—can help set your expectations and ensure the program you choose falls within your family’s needs.
8. WHAT IS THE SCHOOL’S MISSION?
Understanding a school’s mission and how it plays out daily in the classroom can help you select a school that aligns with your family’s own goals. For example, Trinity Episcopal School’s mission is to build confident, resilient upstanders on a foundation of academic excellence, moral responsibility, and faith who are prepared to make a positive difference in the world.
9. HOW DO YOU INDIVIDUALIZE THE CURRICULUM FOR EACH STUDENT?
Some students learn through discussion, some through visuals, and some by working in a hands-on way. At Trinity, academic choice in learning provides students with the opportunity to think deeply, articulate their thinking, and become expert problem solvers. Through thoughtfully designed classroom communities and intentionally individualized curricula, children become ardent questioners, empathetic upstanders, and fluent communicators.
- HOW DO YOU TEACH THE WHOLE CHILD?
Though academics are important, it is also important that a child can be a child. That means ensuring they will have opportunities to be independent, creative, and curious on a daily basis. Trinity Episcopal School provides a wide range of opportunities for students to discover their skills and talents including theater productions, art shows, choral groups, athletics, community service activities, book fairs, and much more.
11. IS DIVERSITY EMBRACED?
Most programs say they value and embrace diversity, but one of the surest ways of gauging this is to look for representation in the environment. Are people of different cultures, sexes, ethnicities, and religions represented in the books, dolls, toys, and decorations available to children? What about the faculty and staff?
12. IS THE CHILDREN’S WORK ON DISPLAY?
While this may seem like a small touch, displaying the children’s work can do wonders for self-confidence. Look for signs that this confidence is fostered and that children are given the opportunity to be proud of what they accomplish.
By asking the questions outlined above, you can feel confident in choosing the school that will allow your child to thrive. Ultimately, you should rely on your own intuition and judgment in evaluating programs and facilities. After all, as parents, you know your child, and you know what feels right for them.
Virginia Evans was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University, Virginia began her career as an early education teacher before moving to Washington D.C. to work on Capitol Hill. After three years in government, she returned to New Orleans and over the past nine years has held several roles at Trinity Episcopal School. She currently serves as the Director of Marketing and Communications. When Virginia is not at school, her two daughters, Keighley and Amelie, and husband Ryan keep her busy. They love trying new restaurants and exploring New Orleans as a family.