What looks good on paper might not be so in reality.
“Trust your instincts because they are probably right,” says Chris Burt, a Palm Beach County father of two. “And don’t settle just because one school might be more convenient. Pick the best school and don’t look back.”
That’s what he discovered when researching elementary schools for his two young children.
“Many of the schools were similar on paper, but two of them had obvious safety concerns when we visited,” Burt says. “Playgrounds were too close to main roads, and there was not enough security. We walked right into two buildings without even being questioned. Take in all the little things when you visit and take notes on each when you are there.”
That’s advice that Kathy Burstein, spokeswoman for the Palm Beach County School District, supports. In fact, visiting prospective schools for your soon-to-be kindergartner is so important that the school district hosts annual roundups in the spring at every school, she says.
“The kindergarten roundups are an opportunity for parents of incoming kindergarteners to register their children for their home, meet their school's principal and get acquainted with the campus before the first day of school in August,” Burstein says, noting that children are eligible for kindergarten if they’ve turned 5 by Sept. 1.
Each school is in charge of scheduling its roundup. Here is a complete list.
Burstein also suggests checking out prospective schools’ social media accounts for insight if you need a starting point when deciding which schools to visit.
“Many of our schools are on Facebook and Twitter, which can help you learn more about the school and see what events might be coming up that you can attend,” she says.
If your child has a particular interest, you might want to research the school district’s Choice Programs, which offer theme-based curricula that focus on a specific area.
“The district's Choice department has a Showcase of Schools event in the fall, where parents and their children can come and learn about the different Choice programs offered at our elementary schools,” Burstein says.
If the wealth of information is overwhelming and you’re not sure where to start, Burt and Burstein echo the same advice: Don't be afraid to ask questions.
“Seek out some of your fellow parents in the school's PTA or on the school advisory committee,” Burstein says. “The teachers, administrators and staff at our schools are here to help you and to help your child succeed.”
Kindergarten registration checklist:
These items are required when you register your child for kindergarten:
- Completed registration form
- Two current documents with the residential street address upon initial enrollment in a school
- Record of required immunizations
- Record of physical exam
- Proof of birth, such as birth certificate, passport, religious records
You can find your bus stop here if you live more than 2 miles from the zoned school. If you’re dropping off and picking up your child by car, check with the school for procedures.
Free and Reduced Cost Meals:
The school district provides free breakfast to every child in Palm Beach County. Lunch is available low-cost or for free depending on a families' eligibilty. Click here for more information.
• Kathy Burstein, spokeswoman, School District of Palm Beach County