Finding the Right School For Your Child…In New Orleans

I grew up in a suburb of Denver, Colorado where EVERYONE went to public school. My parents were able to find a nice home in a nice neighborhood and with it came a nice (free) school system. There was never a lot of thought or emphasis placed on looking for an acceptable school. Looking back, I can recall knowing (maybe) two people who attended private school. So I was shocked, to say the least, when I moved here and found that almost everyone in New Orleans goes to private or parochial school.

Time to Start Thinking…

Currently, I have AJ enrolled in PK-4 at a playschool, making him one of the youngest in his class. I was able to avoid all of these considerations for a few years, but now that it’s time to find a primary school, I’m under a great deal of pressure to make a lot of really important decisions that will ultimately change his future. AJ was blessed to be born on September 15th. Sometimes I think that the date of the 15th (exact middle of the cut-off month) was God’s way of teasing me just a little. Last year, he made the wait list for Metairie Academy PK-4. Although we were thrilled that he made it that far, in the back of my mind was the fear that, because the public school system cut-off is September 30, eventually, I may well be dropping my 17 year old (first born) son off to college (hopefully). YIKES!  However, if I place him in the private or parochial school system, their cut-off date (for the most part) is September 1, which would make him close to the oldest in his class. Him being the oldest in the class appeals to me on some level, but on the other hand, it would force him to repeat PK-4, which makes me fear that he’ll become bored. It’s confusing, I know!

1st day of schoolAll of these questions (and all of this stress) is not anything that I would have ever considered if I’d stayed in Denver. One of the JOYS of living in New Orleans, however, is that careful consideration must be taken when placing your child in school. Open house season is starting and I will be one of the wide-eyed parents hitting up EVERY SINGLE school that I can. I was not given the benefit of being born and raised here. I am not aware of the reputations or stereotypes that precede each school. I am left with only my own two eyes and a gut feeling.

I find it difficult to ask locals their opinion of a specific school. Mostly, they seem to have STRONG feelings about schools; your best friend and your neighbor will have conflicting ideas about the same school. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. Only a lot of work to find the right placement for your child and his/her needs. Looking forward … seemingly, where you go to high school is of more significance here than where you go to college. I’ve yet to figure that one out, but I’m already trying to catch the significance of each high school just to ensure that I send my children to the RIGHT one!

These concerns may seem silly to locals who were raised in these schools. But remember, if you were raised here, in these schools, you experienced their teaching methods. With that comes a great deal of comfort. Comfort in knowing EXACTLY what your children will experience. I know nothing of private schools.  I was raised to believe that teachers were not allowed to discuss religion and all subjects related to religion were strictly prohibited in school. Parochial schooling will certainly take some getting used to for me.  Prek

Going Forward

I have a lot to learn in the coming months. There are many decisions to be made. Parochial versus Public, Place Forward versus Hold Back, All Boys versus Co-Ed, “No Cut” versus “Firm Cut” … the list goes on and on. If I do place him in an all boy school, how will he meet girls? Will there be school dances? Once I pick, does it stay that way throughout high school? I’m hoping that one school sings to me and makes this decision easy. And I hope that THE school is not going to break the bank! I am both resentful and grateful to the great city of New Orleans that I have been given the obligation opportunity to make all of these choices. I just hope that I make the right ones.

How did you choose your child’s school? If you were not raised in New Orleans, were there any resources you found to be helpful? If you are from New Orleans, can you offer any advice?

schools New Orleans



  1. Thank you for writing this! I feel the same way having not grown up here but in a state where public schools were the norm. I’m so overwhelmed with people asking where my children will go to school – and they’re not even 2 yet. But I know I need to start becoming aware of what’s out there. It is truly hard to get non- biased opinions from people about schools, and find one that seems great, offers all you want and doesn’t go over budget. I’m a teacher at a catholic school and still have no idea even. Please keep writing about this – would live to follow your story and see what you learned in the process!!

    • Thank you for your comment Robyn! As the process goes on, I will post again about my experiences at the open houses and, ultimately (hopefully), post about how we made our final decision. I did not send AJ to a 2 year old program either. The idea seemed foreign to me. However, I was very thankful to the 3 year old program for helping him develop socially. I wish you luck. I know it’s not easy.

  2. The NOLA school-choice-dance is so difficult! Thanks for putting yourself out there with this article – it is such a hard decision to make. We chose Lycée Français (and luckily, they chose us too as they have a lottery system). It has been the best decision for us, and we look forward to all tree of our children attending there (out eldest is in Kindergarten now). The school has such a tight-knit group of parents and community – it almost seems private! It is a charter school, so we are getting a wonderful, French education in a public setting. AMAZING! The teachers are fantastic and the new principal and school leadership have a structured and progressive vision for the school’s future. Definitely check it out in your hunt for a school — and good luck!

    • Wow! What luck, Jill! I’ve not looked into Lycée Français. I’ll definitely add them to the list though! Thank you for your feedback. I’m excited to start learning more about all the schools I can…and even more excited to find THE school for us!

  3. Hi Jamie,
    I know how you feel as well! A little different though as I grew up going to public schools, but now where I grew up everyone sends their children to Catholic schools. I now live Uptown and had a hard decision 3 years ago of where and what to do with my son who went to PK4 and K at a Catholic school. I toured many schools and have been so impressed with New Orleans Charter School System. I was introduced to immersion schools because my boyfriends family is French and I was shocked when I found out that New Orleans now has three public charter immersion schools. I decided to go with ISL and hold him back one year to enroll him in the program in Kindergarten because he didn’t know the language. ISL is a great school and had a wonderful experience there. However, it’s a very large school. During his first year at ISL I heard about Lycee Francais, which at the time was in its first year of existence. After my investigating a little more, I decided to switch Maddox to Lycee for first grade as I liked a smaller school and am so happy that I have. He loves going to school everyday, my son is in second grade and speaks fluent French. He will have so many opportunities when he grows up being bilingual and they teach based off of the French Curriculum, which believes in active learning and several outdoor breaks throughout the day. Being a mom of a boy yourself, you know how active boys are and their attention span is short! So this works and he’s excelled immensely! Sorry if I went on and on, but I have grown to love Lycee and wish everyone would see the benefits of an immersion program. There are all walks of life, religious beliefs, etc that attend and for me this is key but also every parent there is invested in their child’s future through the immersion program. Please feel free to ask any questions, I am happy to help.

    • Hi Jamie! Thank you for your input. Immersion school definitely intrigues me. It sounds like Lycée is an amazing school. I am putting it on the list for sure. I have so much research to do. I appreciate all the help from everyone! How did you finally decide on Lycée? Was there an “a-ha” moment when you realized that it was the right place for you?

      • I would say that several things about Lycee intrigued me. Like I said before, it’s a smaller school, pk3-3rd grade right now and they will add a grade each year through high school. My son has 17 students in his classroom which is great for teacher/student involvement. Another thing is that all of the teachers are younger. Not 18 and they have to have at least 6 years of teaching in France before they can apply to teach at Lycee, but they are all young in their careers, still excited about their jobs and teaching and the kids feed off of their energy. But I do think that what sealed it for me was (2 things) One, when I then learned about their zoo program, lycée has a contract with Audubon Zoo where each year certain classes spend 6 weeks at the zoo which is just an incredible experience. And two, lunch! Lycee has teamed up with Revolution Foods that provide fresh non processed lunches everyday and they do not allow junk food. And because they are all practicing healthy eating, they eat all of their vegetables and begin to love the healthy cooking which is so great when I cook at home.

        • WOW! What a treat! Those are both HUGE! I had no idea that options like that even existed. I’ve heard of certain schools having a ridiculously high cost for lunch, but not this. What a huge advantage. Thank you for sharing!

  4. Thank you for this post! I will be interested to read about your experiences at open houses, how you ultimately make your decision and also the comments that other readers make, We moved to NOLA literally like 3 weeks ago from TN and I have been overwhelmed not only with moving but with all this school pressure too! We LOVE being here and have fallen in love with the city but the education system is so different. In TN, pretty much everyone goes to public school and there is no choosing, you go where you are zoned. My son just turned 5 in September. In TN, you have to be 5 before August 30, therefore he did not start K before we moved, so he will be one of the oldest in the class when he starts next fall and we are perfectly fine with that. I just don’t even know where to start, everyone asks “Where will he be going to school?” and everyone has their own opinion as to what school is best. I’m not sure private school is in our budget right now (I am a SAHM currently) so we are definitely looking at charter schools. My degrees are in education so I know I will be picky but ultimately I just want the best possible education and best fit for my son, Would you care to share what schools are on your list to attend open house and how you even start the process of finding open houses, application deadlines, etc? I am so new here and so lost. Please do keep sharing on this topic, its an important one, especially for us newbies to NOLA. Thanks!

  5. Hi Johnna! Welcome to New Orleans! This city is truly amazing, but it can be like moving to a foreign country at times. There are hurdles here that I could never have imagined in my home state. That being said, so much depends on where you live.

    There are public advanced academies that require testing for admission and their sign up starts this week. If you click the link to Metairie Academy in my post, it will take you to their website.

    As for private or parochial, I’m in the same boat as you. I will be attending as many schools as I can this fall. There are a few public schools in both Jefferson Parish and Orleans Parish that are great.

    My top private/parochial contenders are Country Day, St. Catherine, Stuart Hall, Ecole Bilingue de la Nouvelle Orleans, St. Francis Xavier and (since writing this) if I lived in Orleans Parish, I’d place Lycée Français on the list as well. If you are in Orleans, I’d also strongly consider Lusher.

    Good Luck! I hope to see you at the Moms Night Out! ^

  6. Great article and thoughtful conversation. We are a public school family all the way. It’s the only thing we considered. Thankfully there are more and more good public schools coming on-line. There are less options with Pre-K then Kindergarten. This is for Orleans Parish only.

    Pre-K – Morris Jeff, Audubon, Lycee Francais and Hynes (only for talented and gifted and almost exclusively Lakeview because they zip-code preference.)
    Kindergarten – All of the above and Lusher, ISL, Bricolage

    The hard thing is that the application processes start the year before and it’s almost impossible to get in if you don’t apply early. Some schools use an application process called OneApp and the others have their own process.

    My girls will be entering Morris Jeff in the fall as Pre-K 4 students! We are thrilled…this was our top choice. I like that they are an International Baccalaureate school…we know lots of families there that love it…it’s our neighborhood school and mostly I love the diversity in the student body. Very thoughtfully done.

    Welcome to New Orleans and Good Luck! You will find the right place for you and your kids!!

  7. I just realized this is an old post…It came up new in my Facebook Feed…that’s weird! Oh well…Someone may need the help one day!

  8. Hi Geneva –

    I’m just now seeing this on Facebook as well, and your information was incredibly helpful. My son is only 1 now, but I’m definitely feeling the school pressure from people around here. I am also not from here, and am learning the ropes. Thanks for your comment.


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