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How to Research School Districts When House Shopping

 How to Research School Districts When House Shopping

Miller Creek Middle School

Miller Creek Middle School, San Rafael, Dixie School District

Isn’t one of the main reasons you are considering relocating to Marin County is to be in a county that has an excellent school district   You are just trying to give them the edge that’s essential to their success in life.  Then it’s just as important to check out the local school districts as it is to find the perfect home that has all the features you want. Managing to evaluate the school districts in your the different towns in Marin County as you shop for your new home can seem daunting.  However, it could be even easier than you might realize. There’s always some things you can do when you are in the area searching for homes.  And, there’s even a few things you can do in comfort from your own home to assess the quality of the schools in your desired location.

1. Ask Your Real Estate Agent

Schools

Ask your Real Estate Agent

If you are using a real estate agent to look for your new home, you shouldn’t be afraid of asking for any information she can provide related to the area in which you are looking.  If she has children of her own, she has gone through this research process before and should be able to provide you with some valuable information. Maybe she’ll be able to tell you about some of her own actual experiences.  If she does not have the information readily available, she can probably steer you in the right direction to find some information.  You already trust your real estate agent to help you find that perfect home, how about trusting your agent to help find the right school district for your children.  Additionally, it can be a good idea to ask your real estate agent whether she knows which school system previous homeowner’s kids attended. If they attended a school outside of the zoned area for some reason, it could be an indication that the local school district performance could be less than desired.

2. Visit Nearby Schools

School Sign

Visit Some Schools

Is there a better way of learning about the school system your children might attend than by actually visiting it? The administration will almost certainly give you a tour of the facilities and set up meetings with the principal and the teachers your kids might have.  They will be very happy to answer any question you might have. Taking notes at each location will help you clearly remember the advantages and disadvantages of each district when you compare later. Any negative vibes you may have received from a school’s leadership may convince you to avoid a particular school district or indicate that further investigation is required before making a decision. It is also a good idea to have a list of important question to ask already prepared for the school’s leadership.  That way, you can make sure nothing is missed.  No question is off limits when it comes to your kid’s education.  You will certainly want to ask about the extra-curricular activities and the sports programs that are available, the school’s educational philosophy and it’s approach, average class size, your kid’s attendance, and the school’s record on the state’s standardized tests.

3. Make Phone Calls
When things get too busy for you to take the time to visit a potential school district, take the time to make a phone call to each school’s administration in order to ask all the question you would have asked if you were actually there.  Again, write down each of the answers you get and make a list of the advantages and disadvantages for the comparison.  But, always keep in mind, it is not as easy to get a good feel for a school’s atmosphere if you weren’t actually there.

4. Ask Other Parents
People in the areas you are considering often know a good amount about the school systems. Parents with children are sure to knows better than anyone else which schools are the best.  If you are not ready to just knock on someone’s door, you might want to look into meeting with the local Parent/Teacher Organization of the school district under consideration.  This should be quite easy to accomplish; however, any information received from the organization may be biased.  All Parent/Teacher Organizations want their own school system to look good to outsiders.  One way around this is to visit the local playground between seeing each house.  This gives you the opportunity to get a feel for the neighborhood and casually talk to parents about the local school system as your kids get to work off any pent up energy.

5. Look Into Public Information
Get the latest issue of the local newspaper.  Here, you can see what’s been making headlines in the local school system. Some schools may be trying new things of interest to you that you would want to learn more about; perhaps they are looking into offering online classes or setting up peer tutoring programs. You will get a better impression of the school system you are considering when they are generating some positive news. In addition, each school system should have a pamphlet of relevant information that may have some valuable information.

6. Research Online
If every other approach leaves you feeling less than satisfied, continue your research online.  Local community message boards will often give you the “straight dope” on all issues related to the neighborhood you are considering, including the local school system.  Make sure you note school reviews from the parents of kids that attend the schools in the district you are considering.  However, community message boards can often be overly negative regarding the issues being considered.  Finally, the website for a specific school or school district will give you a feel for how it presents itself.  Standardized student test scores are often available online as well.

A comprehensive review of the school districts in potential new neighborhoods in Marin County may make your house hunting seem even more daunting; however, this review should be viewed as an investment in your kids.  The pay off is in the educational foundation your kids can build for their future success.  It’s one of the most important things you can do for your kids.  You owe it to them!

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