Moving half way across the country when BeBe was two years old, I knew we wanted to buy a house in a great public-school district. Fortunately, there were several good school districts to choose from in our area. We rented for six months and scouted neighborhoods for a house we loved and compared school districts. During our search we realized there were some finer points to selecting a district aside from the Great Schools rating.
Budget– The recession hit public schools hard in our state. I was concerned about how this would affect the school district budgets in the neighborhoods where we were house hunting. Luckily, it’s easy to access the latest school board meeting minutes and review the budget. One school district that seemed strong was discussing budget cuts in the last meeting. The district we finally choose, already had a financial plan in place to hold programs steady for a few years, and an initiative to bring in more revenue through a tax increase (which later passed). This next school year, the school district BeBe attends will begin implementing new curriculums for most grade levels, construction on new facilities, and updating technology and safety. The other school district is still not growing and hasn’t reinstated the programs it cut.
Offer before and after school care– At the time I was a SAHM, but I knew at some point I might be a full time WOHM. We found we really liked a certain district, but they didn’t offer this type of care. I wanted us to have solid childcare options in the future.
Offer AP classes in High School– This was important to me for two reasons. The obvious that, if we stayed in our house until the kids were high school age, I wanted them to have more academic options. The other reason is that it seemed to reflect more academic rigor in all the grades, all the way down to kindergarten.
Offer arts and music– BeBe is a kid that loves art and crafts, and some school districts cut these programs due to budget constraints. At the time she was too young for us to know if she would like music. However, looking ahead I called around to the older elementary schools in different districts and found they didn’t offer orchestra, only band and at later grades than other schools. Again, I wanted a district that had as many options as possible for music.
Girls’ sports– My husband and I both enjoy sports and played in high school. It’s of course hard to know if your kiddo will be interested in sports when they are only a toddler. But I liked that the high school in the district we choose has more girl sports teams than the surrounding areas. Granted the girls’ sports teams have to play private girls’ schools because of the lack of competition among public schools. However, I played private schools while attending public schools and had a great experience. And because there are several high school girls’ sports teams, the town we live in offers more sports activities in middle school and upper elementary school for girls. Those sports programs serve as a feeder programs for the high school sports teams. Even if BeBe decides not to play sports in high school, it gives her more options for activities as a kid.
Diversity – Some of the school districts we checked out were in rural areas. Everyone seemed nice but I missed the diversity. We choose to live in a town with a large university and closer to the city. It’s funny how you don’t realize there is diverse student population at a school until you visit districts that are homogenous.
Considering the points above, this ultimately affected our home buying decision process. We nearly bought a big beautiful house with a lot of land, close to town in a good school district. Then decided we would rather buy a home below the median home price in a better school district. Of course choosing to move to the Midwest met we could still afford a good sized home and yard in a great school district.
So far we have been really happy with the school district. Small class sizes (20:1), the teachers have master’s degrees in their field and are creative and kind, and there are lots of extras clubs offered to the kids. Our taxes are high, but we are getting our money’s worth out of the school, amazing parks, bike trails, and a fantastic library that has a wonderful kids’ program. Lastly, compared to private school tuition we will save a ton of money and the academic test scores from our district are comparable to the private schools.