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Friday, January 04, 2008

New Year, Old Enrollment Plan

So we're coming up on school tour season. Is that part of your life this year? It's part of mine only because I help with tours (and am, along with my co-president, Maureen, the face of the PTSA) at Roosevelt. (The two main questions we always get are "where is the bathroom?" and "how can I get my student into Roosevelt?".)

The Enrollment Guides always make for interesting reading. The vast majority of school information is written by principals so there's sometimes a reading between the lines feeling. The charts they have in the guides for an "at-a-glance" look at schools in each cluster is somewhat helpful but doesn't always give a true picture of a school.

In the end, you have to go on the tours. For high school (or even middle school), take your student. Kids have a good sense for how they feel in a building. However, don't expect to go into a lot of classrooms. Most schools don't encourage that as it is pretty disruptive. If it means a lot to you, you can always make an appointment and come back and just sit in on a class or two. You're likely to get more information sitting alone at the back of a class than crowding into one in a large group on a tour.

If you are coming from elementary and are touring a middle school for the first time and happen on a passing time, be prepared for a slight shock. The kids are pretty loud and rowdy compared to the docile elementary students. But if you see behavior that bothers you, ask about the discipline policy. It is likely to vary from school to school. Ask about bullying and what programs they have in place.

And please be patient with the tour guides; they are volunteers and may not - gasp - know everything. Also, the more popular schools will likely be crowded; hang back and get into a smaller group. (For some reason, people rush to get in the first groups.) If you have a burning question that doesn't get asked (or answered) on a tour, follow up and e-mail the principal (vice-principal, counselor). If you get a prompt, clear answer, that will tell you something about the school. Also, visit that website and if they have a student and/or parent newsletter/newspaper, read them. You'd be surprised, especially at the high school level, what you can learn about a school from those sources.

1 comment:

West Seattle Mom said...

I'm very new to this school tour process -- my son will be in kindergarden this fall. Anyway, I'm not even sure what questions I should be asking on these tours. Any advice for a newbie?

Thanks,
West Seattle Mom