How to learn about the schools in your new area
Front Range families are lucky to have the flexibility of school choice, but where you live still impacts your school options because of the obvious issue of commuting to drop kids off and pick them up, morning and afternoon. “You can pick the school in your neighborhood, or another public school if there’s room (open enrollment) and we also have lots of charter and private school options,” says Cindy Montgomery, Realtor with Coldwell Banker Realty in Longmont. All this choice is a good thing – but it can also make the task of learning about your options seem daunting.
Here are some tips for collecting all the information you need about various neighborhoods and the schools in them so you can make the best decision about where to move with your family.
WORK WITH THE RIGHT AGENT
When shopping for a new home, it’s crucial that you find a realtor who has the experience and knowledge you need. “Work with a neighborhood expert, one who sells more than one or two homes a year in the neighborhood,” says Realtor Steve Altermatt of Remax of Boulder. “They may have information on homes that are not yet on the open market and have data going back years that can demonstrate the pros and cons of investing in various locations and types of properties.” If you’ve had an eye on a certain area, find an agent who knows that area and can give you honest details about the schools without you having to do any digging or deep research.
“Partnering with a well-informed, local realtor and community expert is key,” says Orly Ripmaster, Front Range market president for Slifer, Smith & Frampton real estate. “Often local realtors have children of their own or those of their clients that attend the local schools and are usually very involved with the community and the school districts.”
FAMILIARIZE YOURSELF WITH THE MANY INVALUABLE ONLINE RESOURCES
You’re certainly not alone in wanting to learn about the schools in your area. There have been parents in your exact shoes before, so answers have naturally cropped up on the internet. There are plenty of online resources for learning more about your area’s schools. Some of the best websites at your disposal are greatschools.org, which provides clear analysis and ratings of schools across the US, and niche.com, a similar rating tool with a comparison feature. Montgomery also recommends schoolview.org and schooldigger.com. District websites like bvsd.org also offer plenty of information to help in your decision making.
IDENTIFY WHAT’S IMPORTANT FOR YOUR FAMILY
Rankings can only go so far in identifying a school that’s a good fit for your child and your family – that’s why it’s important to go into your move with an idea of what you’d like in a perfect school. “It’s important when shopping for properties with school-aged children that you are doing your own research and not solely relying on the online, algorithm-based rankings,” says Ripmaster. “While those are valuable tools, understanding the community, extracurriculars and activities offered and ways to get involved in the community play such an impactful and positive role in the school selection process that having a local expert to ask questions is a critical component.”
Are language immersion programs important for you? What about sports and extracurriculars? You’ll also want to consider more general factors like class sizes and the education level of teachers and staff. Create a basic list of questions about schools in your area before you get too deep into your search.
NOTHING BEATS AN IN-PERSON VISIT
“They should visit the schools they are considering,” says Montgomery. “Talk to the teachers and staff there and other parents.” In-person school visits from prospective parents and students are almost always welcome by the schools, who are eager to expand their enrollment and help families learn about what they offer.
“Post-pandemic, tours are available again and highly recommended,” says Ripmaster. “For those moving from out of town, asking the schools for parents who they can contact or making connections via social media platforms is valuable.” Contact the school you’re interested in and schedule a visit or learn about their open houses.
By Emma Castleberry, Raised in the Rockies