Finding the Right School Fit
By Katie McCall
One San Antonio parent shares practical advice for selecting public or private education on an individualized basis.
As a mother of four and longtime San Antonio resident, Elizabeth Cox thought her children would attend the local school district zoned for their family home. “Growing up in a military family, I easily adapted to wherever I needed to fit in, and that worked for me,” said Cox. Consequently, she assumed her children would have a similar experience.
However, as her children entered the school system, Cox learned one size did not fit all for her family’s needs. She ultimately found the right match for each child by researching other public and private education opportunities. “From Pre-K to high school, there are a plethora of school options available to families in San Antonio. Parents can dig in and find the best possible fit for their students,” said Cox. Today, she is passionate about sharing practical advice for parents to optimize students’ educational experiences.
Hierarchy of Needs
Before assessing schools, Cox believes parents must first clarify the family’s top education priorities. In Cox’s case, academia and safety are non-negotiable, whereas close proximity to home is merely nice to have.
As families develop their wishlists, Cox suggests including specific requirements, such as special needs accommodations, faith-based environments, niche curriculum, or a strong athletics department.
Most importantly, she says staying in tune with each child’s interests, strengths, and challenges best equip parents to identify what they need from a school. “Some kids will thrive in an exceptional rocketry program that ignites their future engineer, while others excel in athletics and need team sports to help them get up and be excited for the day,” said Cox.
Research (Online and In-Person)
Cox stresses that parents should seek out the strengths, dynamics, culture, and more of each school before choosing to register. That depth of information is gathered through thorough research online and in person.
Parent Perspectives On Facebook
Facebook Groups provide space for current school parents to discuss relevant topics and share information with each other and prospective school parents.
A simple search on Facebook will reveal groups affiliated with charter, magnet, public and private schools in San Antonio. “Parents are helpful and welcoming when it comes to new parents wanting to learn about a school,” said Cox. “Everyone I’ve encountered is friendly and transparent and provides frank and honest feedback.”
Across the board, social media is a rich resource to obtain a wealth of information from the school, parent, and student perspectives. In addition to joining groups, Cox recommends searching hashtags that reference the school for more insights on campus.
Interview Administrators and Staff
Another way Cox stays informed is by speaking with specific school administrators and teachers on staff. She encourages prospective parents to request meetings with the Principal, Vice Principal, Admissions and grade-level school counselors, and the Director of Admissions to obtain big-picture answers.
“I’ve had Zoom calls with teachers in specific areas of academia,” said Cox. “I come away from these meetings with a deeper understanding of class dynamics, the level of curriculum, and the teacher’s overall point of view,” said Cox.
If considering a public school, Cox also recommends attending school board meetings or watching them online, which are publicly available on any district’s website. These meetings reveal the district’s current initiatives and give a good feel for what current parents and students are experiencing.
Encourage Kid-to-Kid Conversations
While parents and school representatives are great resources, Cox underscores the importance of having students speak directly with other students. Cox recommends scheduling a “shadow day,” where a child attends a prospective school for a half or full day to shadow a current student. Cox says this can be a transformational first step for students who may feel apprehensive or nervous about trying a new school. “My daughter was ecstatic when I picked her up at the end of a shadow day, begging me to let her go to this new school,” said Cox.
Get Involved and Stay Aware
While there is no such thing as the perfect school, it’s well worth it to be informed and prepared when exploring your options. Maintaining open lines of communication with your child and staying plugged in with the school are best practices to ensure your student’s experience continues to be a positive one. No matter the stage you are in your child’s educational journey, the following resources can help.
Private/Public School Ratings and Reviews
Public School Rankings and Detailed Information