BY: KARI OLFERT, THINKSASKATOON
Saskatoon has 44 elementary (Watson) public schools, the oldest being École Victoria School (1909, kids) and the newest being Willowgrove (Whoop Whoop). This means you have 44 opportunities for finding the best fit. Very recently (as in last year) I was having mixed feelings about the school that my children were attending, having had a friend move here from Calgary I started to tell her what was happening, not that there was anything huge per say, but I wasn’t sure about the school. My friend told me that she called the schools, talked to the principal, met the teachers and sat in on classes ALL before her children ever set foot in the school. I was blown away, YOU CAN DO THAT?! I chose a school based on where we lived, NOTHING else.
Throughout the rest of the school year I was constantly comparing our schools and was shown just how terrible (unaligned with my values this current school) was. I met with the principal to state that I would like to volunteer my time to the school (thinking that maybe this would shift my opinion) to which I was told they have enough help. This is the first time I have ever heard of a school or any organization say that they do not need volunteers. This added to my pile of concerns. Of course said friend could pop into class or volunteer whenever she wanted to. REALLY?!
Another friend of mine worked as a teachers assistant in this school, her child attends this school and they both really like it. That being said, she received an email one morning warning all of the teachers that they had a ‘parent working in the school today’ (her) and to watch what was said. This made my decision to switch schools.
I am not looking to blackball a school or rave about another so I will not mention names BUT we did switch schools this year and the new school is AMAZING! Teachers smile. This may seem incidental but I assure you when you come out of a non smiling school (into the light) it can take on miracle proportions. Knowing what I know now, I have learnt that finding a school that you and your kids love is not something to approach casually. If this sounds like lunchtime gossip between two moms I assure you, it is but it is also a lesson that could help someone else find the right school the first time. Switching schools isn’t ideal as our kids have made friends but sometimes it is the only option.
What do you look for as a parent when choosing a school for your child? Are you happy with the school that your child is attending in Saskatoon, would you recommend it to other parents that are looking?
Sometimes we choose it, other times it chooses us. Either you moved to be near a school district you loved or you fell in love with a home and then went school shopping.
This is one we may not think of as we are school shopping. Culture is super important, it sets the tone for the rest of the school. Is the principal smiling when you’re not looking? This may seem silly but if they have a grumpy look on their face, this sets the tone for the teachers, who spend time with our children, who ‘catch’ whatever mood is prevalent. What does the school ‘feel’ like as you walk through the halls.
What does the school offer? Every school has slightly different specialities and focuses. Does yours align with your childs’ strengths and interests?
- Field Trip frequency: How often do they go on field trips? This is regulated by the school board to an extent but some schools go above and beyond this through fundraising. If you value what they learn out of classroom then this is something you should be inquiring about.
- Extracurricular Opportunities: After school activities are generally based on a teacher’s interest. I have seen amazing choir teachers go above and beyond with their passion for the benefit of the kids. This is related to culture.
- Gym Set Up: What is their gym set up to support? What is the quality of their gym equipment?
- Speech Therapy/Counselling: Some schools are so packed with kids that need these services, the school spends all their time focused on the most urgent cases. Make sure there is room for everyone to benefit.
- Childcare: This is a privatized set up. It is a good idea to check out their after school care. Do you like how they run it? Would your child enjoy being there? Does the school know what is happening within the childcare system. If you call and ask about before and after school care, do they direct you right to the childcare group or do they have information for you? This shows a schools level of support.
- Advanced Courses: Let’s face it, some of us (points at someone else) are raising geniuses. Does your school offer advanced courses for your highly motivated, naturally gifted mini you?
- Art and Music: So you are raising a Picasso (raises hand), does your school recognize and value art and music?
Most classes sizes are between 26 and 34. Don’t quote me on this but from general observations with other parents this is the overall consensus. There is a big difference between 26 and 34. Does the teacher have the support they need to effectively teach and manage the class. This comes out of the school budget.
Is your child smarter than last year? Well, are they?
Watch the kids at recess. How they play says a lot. As a parent you know what values you are looking for so this is a personal choice.
Choosing a school is important as it shapes how our children approach social situations and whether they feel positive or negative when it comes to organized learning which carries through our lives. Knowing what you know now, would you have made the same decision about the school you chose for your child?