The Final Shortlist
In part 1 of this series I shared with you my 4 main expectations from the elementary school that my girls will attend viz:
- Christian faith
- Confident body image:
- Multiple career/lifestyle options
- Social savvy /Diversity
The first 3 criteria are easy to evaluate on paper and that's what Part 2 of this series covers. The last criteria - diversity- can only be evaluated in person. The best way to do this is by visiting the school either informally or through organised open house events.
By the time I finished the steps highlighted in Part 2, I had a shortlist of 3 public schools - 1 Montessori, 1 traditional learning center and the 1 we were zoned to. I also had around 6 private schools that I intended to visit. My primary objective in visiting these schools was to evaluate if they were as good as they seemed on paper. I was looking for an atmosphere of respect for parents and students regardless of similarities or differences.
This is the one step where I would say the most important thing in to go with your gut feel, forget being PC (politically correct). That's really hard for me to describe, so instead I'll highlight the different things I saw that led to me dropping or keeping a school on the list.
- No discernible parking spot for parents and a sign asking them not to park in the school as that was reserved for staff members: Eliminated for the disrespectful tone of the posted sign and the extreme discomfort drop offs and pickups could be
- Too small playground for school size: In speaking with friends' kids, I know that some schools schedule outside times on alternate days for classes due to limited playground size. I don't like this
- I was sitting in a coffee shop beside this school when they closed for the day and all the students, parents and harassed nannies coming into the shop reminded me of an episode of Real Housewives of Orange County. Eliminated for wrong, posh vibe.
- I asked the school principal about "diversity in the students and staff members" and he/she stuttered for almost a minute before mumbling that they do have one member of staff who's male so there's some gender diversity there. Duh! if I, the only black person in the crowd, asking you about diversity makes you nervous, I don't even want to know what your problem is.
- Sometimes I don't ask about diversity. I just walk down the hallway and look at school pictures. If in 10 years worth of pictures representing over 3000 students, I see just 1 minority kid in the 2013 picture.... that's a showstopper. I expect the student body racial demographics to reflect the racial demographics of the city and in the last ten years, more than 20% of the people in Calgary have identified as visible minorities including 2% as black.
- Level of (dis)organisation in the open house. Starting late with no acceptable reason, poorly put together presentations, no clear roles for staff members hosting the event. My thinking is if you can organize an event as simple as an open house (which is meant to show you at your best), how will you be able to prepare the kids in your care to be tomorrow's leaders
- A thick layer of dust on the preschool teachers' equipment that sends the message to me that nobody cares to take ownership
- Staff:Student ratios. Easy enough when touring classrooms to count the number of student names per class and see if the ratio is optimal or not
Was it all bad? Not at all but I can tell you that the school that was at the bottom of my list after my evaluations from part 2 shot to number 1 after I visited because the vibe was jaw-droppingly amazing.
Where do we stand today? I have a very short list of 3 elementary schools - each with their unique strengths - that I would be happy for my kids to attend and if I get this right, we won't have to do this again till 2029 ;)
This is the final part of the Choosing our Future Elementary School Series.
In Search of our future school series
Part 1: Defining your expectations
Part 2: Evaluating the schools that meet those expectations
Part 3: Building the final shortlist of elementary schools