What parents need to know about school selection

Whether you’re choosing a preschool, changing public schools, or switching to private schools, you’ll want to find the right fit for your child. Here are important things to consider when looking at schools.

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Schools by grade

Pre-school — Some people think all preschools are the same, but some may not be the best fit for your child’s needs, or for your budget. It’s a good idea to visit several before you decide which one to send your child to.

Grade school — Choices abound when it comes to picking the right elementary school for a child with learning and attention issues. A review of school websites may help you narrow down your list.

Middle school — Compared to grade school, both the social scene and the academics are more complicated in middle school. So it’s more important than ever for kids to feel comfortable in their school’s culture.

High school — High school should prepare students for success after graduation, whether the students plan to attend college or vocational school or get a job.

What to look for when visiting schools

According to Gail Robinson of Great Schools!, an online resource that empowers parents to make informed decisions about their school choices, parents should make the following observations when visiting schools:

  • Nothing beats being in schools, talking to people
  • Bulletin boards tell you a lot
  • The city puts out reams of data, but parents’ top concern is safety — not in the classroom or neighborhood, but whether students feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms.

Enrolling your child in Mpls schools

“The Choice is Yours” is an open enrollment program that gives low-income Minneapolis families more options to attend suburban schools. Students who qualify for free or reduced lunch may apply to attend school in another school district and may be eligible for transportation to and from school.

Students who live on the north side of Minneapolis may apply to schools in Columbia Heights, Hopkins, Robbinsdale, St. Anthony-New Brighton, St. Louis Park or Wayzata. Students who live on the south side of Minneapolis may apply to schools in Eden Prairie, Edina, Richfield or St. Louis Park.

The program is administered by the Minnesota Department of Education in partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools and the West Metro Education Program (WMEP).

Applications for open enrollment must be submitted to the district of the school to which the student is applying. For more information about “The Choice is Yours,” call the school you are interested in attending or visit the West Metro Education Program website (see below).

Other school options

Charter schools are part of a publicly funded education system. Charter schools are schools run independently of the traditional public school system that receive public funding and are held accountable by an agreement (a charter) between the charter school and the state or the school system.

Alternative schools provide educational options for students who may not be successful in typical schools. If traditional school isn’t working for your child, consider other options.

Is it possible for you to home school your child or enroll him in online programming? Is your child capable of studying for and passing the GED exam? Or is it possible that your child simply needs to transfer to a different traditional school where her needs will be better met?

Does your child need educational support?

Low-income families can enroll their child in supplemental educational services if their child attends a Title I school that has been approved for such services by the state. These services include free extra academic help, such as tutoring or remedial help that is provided to students in subjects like reading, language arts and math. This extra help can be provided before or after school, on weekends, or in the summer.

Districts must also provide parents with a list of state-approved supplemental educational services providers in the area and must let parents choose the provider that will best meet the educational needs of their child.


Visit the Great Schools! website at www.greatschools.org. Visit the West Metro Education Program website at www.wmep.k12.mn.us.

Tammy McIntyre, M.Ed. is a workforce development consultant providing individuals and small businesses with career development services. She welcomes reader responses to mcintyre_tammy@rocketmail.com.

2 Comments on “What parents need to know about school selection”

  1. Soon my children will be entering elementary school. We are looking to find them the best school to help them thrive academically. Like you said, when observing schools, bulletin boards can tell a lot. This might be a good way to see what different activities are going on.

  2. These are some great tips for finding the right school for my children. We are planning on moving before the summer ends, so I’ve been looking for schools. I’ll take your advice and visit schools in person.

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