How to Choose a Preschool for Your Children
When my oldest child was old enough to go to preschool, my husband and I started visiting and interviewing schools to determine where he would go. Our local public schools don't have preschool programs, so he would need to go to a private preschool. Having never looked for a school, this was a daunting task! What if we chose the wrong one? It was very important to us that his first impression of school was a good one.
Narrowing the Search
We began our search by looking online and in the local phone books for preschools in our area. After we just compiled a list of local schools, we began surfing the school web sites to narrow it down to a few schools to interview. The criteria we used to narrow our search was as follows:
- Location - Since we would be providing transportation, it needed to be nearby
- Schedule - How long would he be in school each day? How many days per week?
- Prerequisites - What did we need to have before attending?
- Price - Since we were looking at private schools, we were sticking to a budget.
Your priorities may be different than ours, but it's important to narrow down the list based on the things that are most important to you and your family.
Questions to Ask
Once you've narrowed your search to a few schools, the interview process begins. This process is very important, because it allows you to ask questions that are not answered on the school web site. Below are some questions to ask when you meet with a representative of a preschool:
Activities and Daily Schedule
- How do staff and teachers communicate with parents and vice versa?
- Do you follow preschool academic standards? Most states have them, listed on the Department of Education web site.
- Describe the daily schedule and activities for the students.
- Describe the discipline program. What happens and when does it happen?
- What is the teacher to student ratio?
- How are meals handled (assuming the students are there during a meal time)?
Safety and Security
- Describe your security system. Who is allowed into the school and when? Do you check ID? Can we visit unannounced?
- How are teachers and staff screened? Are they drug tested? Do you run criminal background and sex offender registry checks?
- Are there routine fire/earthquake/tornado drills?
- Are cupboards, storage closets, and staff rooms locked and inaccessible to children?
- What happens if a child has an accident? How do you handle injuries?
Administration and Background
- Are you licensed? By whom?
- Are your teachers certified? Describe their background and experience.
- What are your requirements for pickup times?
- When is the school closed? How do you handle snow days (depending on your location)?
- What is the sick policy? When must a child be sent home?
By asking the questions above, you will get a good idea of how the school operates and its policies. Additionally, you can look for signs that the person you are interviewing is nervous or concerned about your questions, which can also be a red flag in your search.
With these questions in mind, you can find the school that is most comfortable for your family and for your child.