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How do you choose a kindergarten?

What should one look for in a school, particularly kindergarten? We live in an area where there are many confusing options, and my head hurts trying to sort it all out. 

One of the things I'm stuck on is that I'd like my kids to have the opportunity to be bilingual. There is only one school in our district that offers language (in this case, Spanish) immersion learning, and so I've been fixated on that particular school. But when I take a step back, there are many other things to think about. This particular school is not conveniently located, it has average ratings, and there are other schools that offer some cool things that this one does not.

I then discovered that the school in our neighborhood has a language requirement starting in Kindergarten, meaning that they will learn a language though will not be immersed in it (ie: they won't learn math in Spanish, but they will learn Spanish in a language class). So I started to wonder if that's enough - to expose them to the language but not immerse them in it, and then they can choose if they want to pursue it enough to become truly bilingual.

However, if you don't start in the immersion school in Kindergarten, you can never get in because of how the curriculum is designed. Therefore, is it better to start there and leave if it's not a good fit, rather than realize too late that we should have started there?

I'm worried that I'm so fixated on language learning that I'm overlooking other more important things. 

So questions:

  • Anybody have experience with language immersion? What are your thoughts? Is it so awesome that it's worth making a primary focus of our decision?
  • If you have experience with language learning other than immersion, what do you think? If we want to give our kids the opportunity to learn a second language, is a language requirement starting in Kindergarten a good way to kickstart that?
  • And in general, what are the important things to look for when choosing a school? 

Because of the chaos of our lives, we have to think about things like transportation and before/after school care. There are some great schools in districts surrounding us that we could try to get into, but we don't have the luxury of being able to drive our kids to and from school at 9am and 3pm (or whatever). So those are major considerations from a logistics stand point.

But what else do you recommend we think about? I need help!

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Reader Comments (3)

We had two atending Kindergarten in two different districts last year (and at that point I did quite a bit of research as we considered an open enrollment / within district transfer). And next year the youngest will enter Kindergarten at a school neither of the others attended. So 3 schools! All public.

The arts are important to us. S's school had an awesome focus on the arts. They had a day-long arts festival with workshops by local artists. The school was completely covered in amazing kid art, scupltures, murals, mosaics, mobiles, etc... even the benches in the hall were painted and colorful. M's school was more traditional with crayon coloring pages hung in the halls. Art was not even offered to Kindergarteners.

Where S attended Kindergarten they evaluated for Gifted/Talented in late Kindergarten. Where she's at now, they don't do that until 3rd grade. This was a real disappointment at first. However at her first school they didn't challenge her or keep her moving forward. I felt like she was just hanging out until she had a label. The new school hasn't labeled her, but they are very in tune with her needs and have allowed her to meet with an ELP (extended learning program) teacher to work on more appropriate coursework. So i guess I'd say if Mo is ahead or behind, find out what the school can offer and when, and if there will be a wait ask how they will keep her engaged in the classroom in the meantime.

Where A will attend, they take a brief afternoon nap, which will be totally new to us.

What else?

Security! They all have a policy (ie buzz in, state your name, come to the office, sign and show ID), but do they enforce that? If you stop by 15 mins before dismissal, can you walk right in or get buzzed in without anyone checking?

A few schools here do year-round schooling, which seems nice for working families.

One school we looked at taught Chinese as the second language, and was very STEM and tech-focused. I like to see schools integrating tech in the classroom at a young age, personally. (And you can often see how they're doing that just by watching the school's Facebook page.)

I would say communication and parent involvement, but now I'm starting to see that more as a teacher issue than a school issue.

Okay, there are my rambling thoughts.

April 11, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay A

I live in a city with a similar array of confusing public/charter options! You can, of course, test drive commutes, talk to other parents, and visit schools (all time-consuming, I know). I care a lot about the discipline approach ... I wanted to make sure there was structure, but also a nurturing atmosphere without a lot of yelling.
Here's a website that I like for reviewing some basic school data. You can check out how many teachers are certified, how many are first-year teachers, enrollment diversity, discipline data, etc. The basic school profile displays some limited info, but on the right side bar, there are more options.
Ask lots of questions about aftercare, if the info isn't readily available and you'd like to know the details of the program ... I noticed that aftercare looked really different from school-to-school. At some schools, the entire aftercare population went into the cafeteria for seated activities or homework. Other schools had a more camp-like aftercare atmosphere with a combination of elective classes (e.g., gardening, Spanish) and free time in various indoor and outdoor spaces.

April 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAnotherParent

I really like how you talked about choosing an immersion program kindergarten to help kids be bilingual. We live in an area with a lot of Spanish speakers, and I think that my kids being able to pick up on that in kindergarten and learning both languages at the same time would be awesome for them. I'm going to have to try to find a kindergarten with an immersion program! Thanks for the help!

May 24, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMax Jones

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