Most Cleveland public schools serve kindergarten through 8th grade students, so making a decision about where your child starts school can set them up for success now and in the future. Finding a school that meets all of your student and family needs (or at least most of them) can prevent you from having to change schools as your child gets older.
Spring is the time of year to start thinking about what you are looking for in a school, with 2022-23 school year registration starting March 14, 2022.
Our school quality navigators are trained to help you decide what is most important to your student/family when choosing a school. They can also help you research and compare schools to explore all the options for your child/family’s needs. School quality navigators can also help you with the application and registration process and any other issues that may come up once your child starts school.
Below are some of the things that families have told us are important to them when choosing a kindergarten:
- Safety — All parents/families want to know that their child is safe when they drop them off for school or wave goodbye to them at the bus stop. You can ask to view the school’s safety policy. Some indicators of school safety include their check-in/check-out procedures, staff training related to safety, safety drills that are age-appropriate, school resource officers, counselors, nurses, etc. Another important aspect of safety is the school’s wellness, behavior management and mental health services. Students feel safe at school and they are less likely to experience unsafe situations when their social/emotional needs are being met.
- Learning Philosophy — Does your child prefer a flexible, hands-on approach to learning? Or are they more comfortable with a traditional curriculum that includes more structure and clear expectations? Do you want to emphasize science, the arts or a foreign language in your child’s school experience? Cleveland is very lucky to have schools that provide Montessori, International Baccalaureate, STEM, all boys, all girls, bi-lingual education, English as a second language, and many more options. Some schools focus on collaborative learning while others are more focused on independent achievement. Asking questions about a school’s learning and teaching philosophy can help you imagine how your student and family would fit in there.
It’s also important to consider how a school identifies and supports students with special needs. Is the school working to ensure equity in its programs and services?
- Location and transportation — Families used to just assume that their child will go to the “neighborhood school” that is closest to them, but there are more options now to ensure that every child has access to a school where he/she can thrive. Depending on the school and/or location, students may be eligible for transportation outside their neighborhood school. Visit CMSD‘s website for district policy or contact their office. Some parents also like to consider schools that are close to work or a family member who might help with before/after school care.
- Before and After School Care \ Extracurriculars — Ask the start and end times of the school day, since not all schools have the same schedule. If you know that you will need to have your child stay after school while you are working, now is the time to ask about the programs available (and costs) for before and after school care. Some schools provide this service in their buildings while others transport students to programs outside of the school. This can be for tutoring, homework supervision, or extracurricular activities. If you know that your child enjoys music, art, sports, etc. you can also look ahead to see what programs are available for the future. In Cleveland public schools, access to sports usually starts in the 5th or 6th grade.
- Talk to other parents/families — One of the best ways to learn about a school community is to connect with other people who know what it’s like to go there. When you are comparing schools, you can ask the principal or your school quality navigator to put you in touch with other families from the schools you are interested in learning about. While everyone’s experience is different, you can ask other parents why they chose the school, how much parents/families are involved, etc. You can also read community ratings and reviews on our School Finder Tool.
Try to visit and tour schools before making a final decision. Many schools were not allowing outside adults to enter schools during the pandemic, but as policies shift, these policies may be rolled back. Information about how to contact each school is available via our School Finder Tool. Reach out to the school(s) you are interested in to see if there is a specific time you might be able to tour the building, or if you can set an appointment. Some schools have specific days/times when you can tour the building, some require you to make an appointment with the principal or other staff.
Most importantly, trust your instincts. As a parent/family member, you know more than anyone what your child needs to succeed. And the feeling you have when visiting a school is an important part of deciding if the community is right for your child and family.
Are you ready to take the first step toward finding the right fit kindergarten for your child?