“I love everything about moving!” said no one ever.
While the prospect of finding a home that has the fireplace you’ve always wanted, that wraparound porch of your dreams, and enough bedrooms to fit your whole family can be very exciting, there are many areas that can seem stressful, especially when you don’t know where to start.
For families with school-age children (or those who are planning to expand), one of the largest considerations is the school district to which they’ll be moving. But did you know that even if you don’t have children, it pays to choose a neighborhood with a highly rated school district? It’s true. Houses located near high-scoring schools are valued at an average of $205,000 more than their lower-scoring counterparts, according to a Brookings Institution study published in April 2012.
How do you ensure that the house of your dreams is in a school district that fits the bill? With a little time and research, you can learn everything you need to know before you make an offer. Here are tips to help you find the right schools when searching for your potential new home.
Determine Your Must-Haves
Just as you decide how many bedrooms and bathrooms you’d like before you begin your hunt for a new home, you’ll want to make a list of what’s most important to you in terms of schools. Will your kids be enrolled in public, charter or private schools? Does your child have special needs that will require a school with a particular style or concentration? Here are a few other factors to consider when looking for a school that suits your child’s learning style and needs:
- What’s the makeup of each classroom? Are classes large or small?
- Is it a structured environment or more self-directed?
- Do they have strong programs that appeal to your child’s interests (e.g., sports, theater or music)?
- Do you have to live in a specific neighborhood for your child to attend this school, or is it a school of choice district?
- If your child is younger, do you need to research elementary, middle and high schools for long-term planning?
- Do you have a backup plan if for some reason there are no openings at this school?
It makes sense to balance your wants and needs for your new home with finding the right school. Whether you’d like to find the perfect school before you find your dream home or vice versa is up to you.
Do Some Investigation
Once you’ve listed out all of your must-haves, you’ll want to get a true sense of how the school works, especially from parents with kids currently enrolled. There are several avenues through which you can gain some information about a prospective new school or district. Here are just a few options:
- Research social media for school district pages and ask questions to gain feedback from parents whose children attend or have attended the school.
- Review the school’s website to get a better sense of their staff and educational priorities.
- Conduct a quick Google search or visit sites like GreatSchools.org to find reviews, see ratings and get more information about moving to a new district.
- Start a conversation with people in the neighborhood and see if you can get some feedback through word of mouth.
- Plan a visit to the school and chat with the teachers and staff.
- Make a call to the school if distance or time makes it difficult for you to go there in person. You can learn a lot from how communicative and willing to help the school staff is during that call.
You’ve done the research, made the calls and talked to the locals, and you’ve decided that this is the right place for you and your family. Now, you’ll want to contact the school to ensure they have an opening available for your child, and to determine what paperwork you’ll need to complete enrollment (e.g., health records and transcripts).
Do you have experience gained from moving from one school district to another? Share with us in the comments below!
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