Finding the Right School for Your Family

Finding the Right School for Your Family

By Claudia Lewis
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 before they even begin their home search. In today’s tight market, limiting your choice of neighborhoods this severely is a recipe for frustration and possibly failure. Under Colorado Division of Real Estate rules, real estate 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, it just means that it may be biased or, more to the point, 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, where 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. Discussion often turns into heated argument. In this instance, there was strong disagreement about the quality of one of the high schools – the school my two children attended. The school regularly scores very high in college preparedness, but 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 has learning disabilities and had a 504 Plan. A 504 is a specialized educational plan developed to ensure that a child attending public school who has a disability receives accommodations that will ensure their academic success. Although the disabled have a legal right to accommodations, my child’s plan was ignored by the school and I ended up having to send him somewhere else. Happily, he graduated on time and is now on the Dean’s List at University of Colorado at Denver.

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 at www.cde.state.co.us/schoolview/performance. I looked at the 2017 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? Another great, unbiased resource for evaluating schools is the Great Schools website, at www.greatschools.org/colorado/. 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 from 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, 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 in two excellent school districts, Boulder Valley School District and St. Vrain Valley School District. The best school for your family might just be in a wonderful neighborhood in a Boulder County town you’ve never considered before.
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