The orders dropped in March, and you’ve been in planning mode ever since. You organized a massive clothes and toy purge in April. In May, you started to sort and store all of your possessions.
Now, the movers are here and your family is ready to hit the road. That next duty station is beckoning!
Except you haven’t settled on a school yet!
I know the feeling. If you’re like me, you’ve been house hunting and researching schools since those PCS orders hit.
It can be super hard to pick a perfect school when you’re working long distance. Just looking at one school ranking service is stressful, nevermind the three big sites out there!
And just when you think you have it narrowed down to one or two, you start digging into the individual school’s sites and profiles. Talk about overwhelm!
It’s going to be ok.
It really is. I absolutely promise that your children will be settled into a good school come fall.
If you want to keep on the DIY path, you have a few tasks ahead of you.
Decide on your must-haves.
When we PCS, we try to get as close as possible to my husband’s new location. We’ve been super lucky to have very short commute everywhere we’ve been so far. Having him home at night, when possible, is very important to us.
For you, your moving must-haves might include house size, a yard, or being close to area attractions. Whatever makes you happiest should make the list.
Do the same thing for schools, based on what your kiddos need.
Some things to consider:
- Sports: make sure that your athletes can play the sport they love either at school or in a local club
- Arts: if you have an artist check out the drama, music, and fine arts programs at all possible schools
- ESOL: if your family is multilingual, make sure there will be supports for your children
- Special Education: consider what services and supports are in place now; make sure they will be in place at the next school, too
- Gifted Education: if you’re coming from a robust and dynamic GE program, check out the program at the next school
- Advanced: AP or honors courses are important to consider
- Technology: check into the ratio of devices to students, as well as the kind of tech that is in place and how it is being used daily
- Funding: find out the per pupil spending amount, average teacher salary, and annual budget
- Class size: consider big and small schools for attention and opportunities
Grab my free Ultimate School Comparison Worksheet to help you make decisions.
To find out all of this information, you’ll need to start (or continue) your research online.
Visit the big three of school ranking sites to help you narrow down your choices. Niche, SchoolDigger, and Great Schools all offer valuable insights into public and private schools. They all show school zoning boundaries, and two even have houses for sale listed near rated schools.
Plug your research into your school comparison chart. Then pull out your list of must-haves for your future home and potential school. Start eliminating schools based on your wants and needs as a family.
Once you’ve narrowed it down to just one or two schools (per child), check them out. Visit Facebook, Twitter, and the school website.
You’re looking for:
- up to date information on the main school website
- a clean professional design
- active engagement on social media with comments and frequent updates
- limited or meaningful publication of student identifiers (names, ages, grades, close up pictures, etc.)
Once you make your possible final choice, give the school a call and ask to speak to the principal or vice principal. If you have questions, now is the time to clarify.
Know when to ask for help.
This is an awful lot of work while you’re in the middle of a PCS. For some things, you can rely on the School Liaison Officer (SLO) at your next base.
The SLO can help direct you to local public and private schools in the area. They can help to connect you to school administrators. They can even do some advocacy work on your behalf.
SLOs might not be able to give you the ultimate recommendation for a school that meets your family’s needs. Hiring a professional to give you that recommendation can be super helpful.
Education advocates and consultants can provide personal, professional recommendations.
I can take your specific wants and needs, then find a school that works for you. Using the MilKids School Seeker Service will allow you to PCS with one less worry on your plate. And during a crazy PCS, having one less to-do can make all the difference.
Let me help you find that perfect school!