Finding the Right School for Your Family
By Claudia Lewis
Great Schools in our Area
Many of our buyer clients list good schools as one of their reasons for selecting Boulder Valley as the place they want to live. In some cases, parents have already targeted the one school
they would like their children to attend. However, if you limit your choice of neighborhoods this severely, it can be a recipe for frustration and possibly failure.
Agents Cannot Offer Opinions
Under Colorado Division of Real Estate rules, agents are prohibited from offering opinions about local schools to home buyers. Much of what you will hear about local schools comes from parents with unique, anecdotal evidence. This doesn’t mean the information isn’t useful, but it may be biased or not applicable to your situation.
Case in Point
Recently, there was a heated debate in my local Nextdoor group about which high school in our area is the best. In case you’re not familiar with it, Nextdoor is a private online social networking service for neighborhoods. On this platform, users can share information and discuss local topics of mutual interest. In my area, residents have a choice of high schools, so the discussion comes up occasionally. Discussions often turn into heated arguments.
No One Size Fits All
In this instance, there was strong disagreement about the quality of one of the high schools – the school my two children attended. To its credit, this school regularly scores very high in college preparedness. However, it scores very low in it’s ability to work with low-income, ESL and disabled students. One of my neighbors commented that this high school was excellent and that any student would do well there. Many agreed but other parents disagreed, myself included.
In my case, my child had learning disabilities and had a 504 Plan. A 504 is a specialized educational plan developed to ensure that a disabled child attending public school has the best chance for academic success. Although the disabled have a legal right to these accommodations, my child’s plan was ignored by the school. I eventually moved him to another school where his special needs were taken into account.
Resources for Parents
Fortunately, for parents who want to drill deeper into the profiles of their local schools, the State of Colorado has school accountability data on their website
. I looked at the School Performance Framework report for the school in question and found that it still scores very high in overall performance. But, in the ten years since my child graduated, the school has not improved their ability to work with kids with special needs. If your child is one of these, would this be the school for you?
You can find another great, unbiased resource for evaluating schools at the Great Schools website
. The site scores schools across several data points and includes reviews you can read and evaluate for yourself.
Be Regionally Flexible
As a former teacher, I can attest that school culture is very important, and that teachers can make or break a school. You can tell a lot just by walking the halls of a school, whether it’s a dynamic place for learning or just going through the motions. I recommend you visit some schools, talk to the principal, and sit in on a classroom or two. But don’t narrow your home search based on the word on the street. We are fortunate that Boulder Valley is full of great schools, with two excellent school districts, Boulder Valley School District and St. Vrain Valley School District.
At Agents for Home Buyers, we understand how important it is to find the right school for your family. Remember, that school might be in a wonderful neighborhood in a Boulder County town you’ve never considered before.