Learn about the different types of school visits available, get inspiration about questions to ask, and learn how to evaluate what you’ve seen on your school visit and the data you've researched about the school.
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The Best Data Is To See A School For Yourself
There is no better way to see if a school is a good fit for you and your child then to visit and see it for yourself. An in-person visit allows you to do a ‘gut check’ on what the data is showing you and confirm if the school is the right fit for your child.
There are several different ways to visit schools. First, we will talk about the various options you have. Please note, every school will have different methods of conducting visits. It is critical for you to reach out directly to the school to learn about how that particular school conducts visits and to schedule your visit. Contact info for each school is available on the school profile pages.
Types Of School Visits
- Tour: These are typically between you and a staff member and involve walking around the school, seeing the building, and having programs explained in an informal way. A tour may include observing a class in session and seeing different spaces around the building.
- Classroom Observation: These are sometimes part of a school tour and involve you sitting in on a class that is currently being taught. You can ask to observe a class reflecting the age of your child or a particular subject area you are interested in seeing to ensure the observation is a productive use of your time.
- Open House: These are typically open to the general public and a variety of staff will be present to answer questions about the school and talk about their experiences. Every school will hold its open house on a different day. Figuring out when open houses are scheduled will be important to learn through the school’s website or by calling or emailing the school directly. These are typically only offered once a year.
- Shadow Day: These are typically for older students (primarily high school and sometimes middle school students) and involve your child spending a half or a whole day at the school. A current student serves as their host and your child will attend classes with them. Your child should be ready with questions and know what they are looking for in this visit to maximize this opportunity as these are typically done without the parent present. It is important to consider your child’s current school attendance policy when scheduling a shadow day. If there is a particular subject your child wants to observe, let the school know that ahead of time so they can include that in the day’s schedule.
Visit the school’s website, call, or email to find out what’s available for the schools you are interested in visiting. Please feel free to ask for what you need in a school visit. Use this worksheet to capture and organize information as you refine your list of schools to visit and what type of visits they offer.
Questions To Help You Evaluate Schools
This section will assist you in building a list of questions of things to observe or ask of staff when you visit the school. Here is a template to capture what questions resonate with you that you want to look for or ask during your visits. If possible, plan to visit more than one school to see the culture firsthand and interact with staff at the school to assist in making your decision.
Regardless of what type of visit you make to the school, having questions ready will help you reconnect to your priorities during the visit and ensure the school is able to meet your needs. The questions you ask the staff or seek to answer through the observation will provide answers to different types of information. The questions could be things you ask yourself about what you observe, how you feel about the environment, or questions you directly ask the staff.
Included at the end of this section are questions for your child to consider asking if they attend a shadow day and specific questions to ask when visiting schools.
Things To Observe (What You See)
- Physical Environment
- Do you feel safe when walking up to the school?
- Is the building clean, inviting, and free from clutter?
- Is it easy to find the main office?
- How much outdoor space is available to the children during recess?
- Classroom Arrangement
- Do classrooms appear clean and engaging?
- Are classrooms organized with clear signs and procedures?
- What technology is available in each classroom?
- What technology is available in the building?
- How often do students use technology?
- Is it clean?
- If observing during breakfast or lunch, what is the feeling you get while watching students eat? Is it orderly or chaotic?
- Is the space filled with books that represent the identity of your child?
- Are there places for independent reading?
- Is there a staff person in the library and are they a full or part-time employee?
- Support staff (nurse, social worker, counselor)
- Who is available to support your student outside the classroom teacher?
- Are these staff members full or part-time employees?
- How accessible are they to parents?
Things To Feel (How The School Environment Makes You Feel)
- Staff Interactions With Students
- What is the tone staff use with students?
- Does it seem appropriate for the age of the student?
- Do you see evidence of care and compassion for students?
- Staff Interactions With You As The Parent
- Are you welcomed by a specific person when you enter the doors?
- Are your questions treated with respect and fully answered?
- Are you given enough time to ask all of your questions?
- How does the staff make you feel?
- The Visual Feeling Of The Building
- Is it clean?
- Are there images that represent the identity of your child around the school?
- Is there student work or art on the walls?
Questions To Consider Asking School Staff On A School Tour
- What supports are available for supporting student emotions?
- What is the goal, philosophy, or theme of the school?
- What are the areas of growth for the school?
- What are the areas of success for the school?
- How long have you been at school?
Questions For Your Child To Consider Asking If They Are Doing A Shadow Visit
- How do your teachers treat you?
- How do you learn about grades in different classes?
- How challenging are your classes?
- Is there a culture of support between students?
- What do you like about the specific school?
- What would you change about the specific school?
Questions To Consider On A Private School Tour
- What is the full cost to attend the school?
- What sort of scholarships or financial aid are available?
- How many students receive scholarships?
- For religious schools, if you are a member of the affiliated religious institution, is there a discount for tuition for my family?
- Do the scholarships renew annually or do you have to reapply?
- What is the process to receive financial aid? What documents are needed? How soon will I know if I will receive financial aid?
Visiting Schools Recap
- You’ve learned about the variety of school visits available, how to find out what your favorite schools offer, and how to schedule that particular kind of visit with the school.
- You’ve learned about different types of questions you may want to answer: how the school feels, what you can observe, and some direct questions to ask of staff giving your tour.
- You’ve built a personalized list of questions you want to ask while visiting schools.