We just toured the three catholic schools in our area in anticipation of registering Kendall for Kindergarten in the fall. Is there any thoughts, advice or questions you all think we should ask?
We are also going to the Kindergarten open house for our public school and the private school she attends now (they only teach up to Kindergarten).
My kids (twins) are in first grade at a Catholic School and we love it! Some things to think about...
Will they allow your daughter to visit for a day (be part of everything that happens)? It will give her a real sense of being a student there!
What specials do the students have and how often - art, gym, technology, music, library?
What is homework like? How much, type of homework?
What volunteer opportunities are there, both within the school and the classroom?
How many students are in the class? How many teachers?
What is the retention rate from K to 1? Here, many people will go to Catholic school for Kindergarten since its full day, and then transfer (public Kindergarten in half day).
How long have the teachers been teaching there?
Will they give you contact info for current parents?
Ask if you can see a sample of the curriculum.
Do they have rest time?
How is behavior handled in the classroom? Consequences for negative behavior, reward for positive, a combination?
Do the children take standardized tests? How do the scores compare to the other schools you are looking at. (Our school takes Terra Nova's beginning in Kindergarten).
How are volunteers screened (we have FBI checks, fingerprints, child abuse clearances, and 3 different trainings to attend)?
I will post more later if I think of them, but I hope that helps!
Catholic schools in Ontario are a bit different as they are publicly funded, but something to look for is visible signs that there is a vibrant Catholic foundation. Often schools are "Catholic" and have basic things like a religion class or prayers at the start of the school day but thats where it ends. Look for how students are encouraged to LIVE their faith in harmony with their education. Also, I don't know what the rules are like in the Chicago area but make sure that teachers and other staff are practicing Catholics. Here, a baptismal certificate is require but ongoing, active membership in a parish is not. Hence the difference in how the faith is lived in each school.
Cara's post made me thing of a few more....
Do the teachers live in the parish? Here many do, and its is wonderful for the kids to see them outside of school. Not only do we see them at school and Mass, but also at the grocery store and the mall!
How involved in the day to day activities of the students are the principal and the pastor? Our pastor (who is our only Priest) is amazing with the kids and is in the school every day. He knows the name of every child! My SIL who lives only 35 minutes away would not say the same. She has never once seen her pastor in the school and her daughter is in 2nd grade.
When my kids started Kindergarten last year, they started on a Thursday. Their was a family picnic on Sunday, I was shocked when the Principal greeted them both by name!
I would also recommended when you visit to just observe! Some of the big behavior things that I love about our school is the level of respect that is taught and expected. Boys as young as first grade are expected to hold the door open for adults, and usually do so for the girls in their class as well. When an adult enters a classroom, every child stops what he/she is doing and greets the adult with "Good Morning Mrs. X, God Bless You Mrs. X". Children are "caught" doing good deeds, and receive recognition at montly student Masses for living the beautitudes.
We are lucky to live in such a wonderful parish. Here is the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, we cannot choose which Catholic school our children attend. They have to attend the parish school if they want to go to Catholic School. The Archdiocese is in such turmoil right now with 50+ schools set to close this spring, with many more merging together.