Questions to Ask When Visiting Schools


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When Shelly Hitt of Raleigh was deciding what school to send her three daughters to, she researched schools online, talked to other parents and visited schools. The student-teacher interaction and friendly atmosphere evident during a school tour helped Hitt decide on the right one for her family.

Selecting a school is an important decision, whether you are considering a magnet, charter or private program. Since the perfect school for one family may not be the right choice for another, it is important to visit the school in person to decide if it is a good fit for your child.

"Being able to see the classrooms in action really gives you a good feel for a school," Hitt says.

Open houses and school visits

One way that parents can learn about a school is to attend an open house where they see the facilities and hear from school staff about the school. Another way parents can gather information about a school is to visit the school for a individual or group tour.

"Open houses and school visits are both important and serve different functions in the choice process," says Linda Nelson, executive director of North Carolina Association of Independent Schools. She encourages parents to go to open houses first and then schedule a school visit during the school day at schools that might be a good fit. She explains that an open house gives parents insight into the school's philosophy and approach to education while a school visit allows parents to focus on gathering information specific to their child's needs.

Learning about public options

While parents usually visit private and charter schools before applying, parents sending their children to public school can also visit schools and attend school fairs. Contact the school directly to see if it offers tours or an open house.

Parents can talk to representatives from Durham Public Schools at the Choice Fair on Nov. 13. Representatives from all magnet schools will be at the Wake County Magnet School Fair on Nov. 6. Julie Marshall, communication director for Durham Public Schools, advises parents who attend a fair to keep an open mind and match their child's interests with available schools.

Before the visit

Nelson advises parents to visit schools during the day to get a feel for the culture and the experience your child would have each day.

Depending on your child's age and your interest in the school, it is often beneficial for your child to also visit the school. Nelson suggests that parents narrow their search to a few schools and then arrange a tour or classroom visit for their child. Try to schedule visits to minimize the amount of time your child misses from school.
Before your visit, make a list of questions that you want to make sure are answered. Talk with your child and find out what questions he has about the school.

During a visit

Be sure to ask any questions you have during a school visit and take note of important information. As you tour the school, note the condition of the facilities and any playground or P.E. equipment. Watch how teachers interact with students and pay attention to the teaching style. Notice if the children seem happy and if they are actively engaged.

"This experience should be as much about what you see as what you hear. Observations are key," Nelson says.

Meet with the admissions director during a visit and get information specific to your child. Nelson says that the director will also ask you questions about your child and your family expectations to help provide relevant information. Be sure to ask about admission requirements, timelines and the next steps for applying to the school.

After visiting, Nelson recommends that parents ask themselves if they would enjoy going to the school every day. "I always tell parents, 'Don't send your children to a place that you wouldn't want to go yourself,'" Nelson says.

Jennifer Gregory lives in the Triangle with her husband, two children and three dogs.

Ask These Key Questions

Linda Nelson, executive director of North Carolina Association of Independent Schools, suggests parents ask the following questions during school visits and open houses:

* Is the school accredited and, if so, by what accrediting body?

* What sort of student is successful at this school? What is the profile of a typical student?

* What is the admission process and how are students evaluated?

* Is it possible to sit in on a class?

* Is it possible for your child, depending on age (probably second or third grade and up), to spend a day or half day at the school attending classes?

* What are the financial expectations of families in addition to tuition?

* What neighborhoods/towns does the school draw from? Where will your child's friends live?

* If the school you are visiting includes high school, also find out where graduating seniors are going to college and the average SAT scores.

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PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
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Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
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Calling all Black tech leaders and visionaries! Are you looking to spur future collaborations, discover new business and career opportunities, and invest in this community? Join us for T.H.E. State...

Cost: Varies

Where:
Durham Convention Center
301 W Morgan St
Durham, NC  27701
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Contact Name: Tarryn Henry
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Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
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Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
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Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
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Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
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Want to do more to help out your community park? Do you like history, the environment, agriculture, and/or the arts? Consider volunteering at Yates Mill! Join us anytime during the program time to...

Cost: FREE. Registration is not required.

Where:
Historic Yates Mill County Park
4620 Lake Wheeler Road
Raleigh, NC  27603
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Telephone: 919-856-6675
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Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
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Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
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The 16th Annual (Virtual) Beaver Queen Pageant, Beavers in the Stream! The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-423-1502
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
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Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
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The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
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River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
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