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What to Keep in Mind When Touring Pre-K’s + Kindergartens

Updated: Dec 15, 2023

NYC public school kindergarten applications are due on January 19th and pre-kindergarten applications are due March 1st. Independent school applications usually need to be completed by January 11th (of course unless they have rolling admissions). To make sure you find the programs that fit your child best, especially if they are presenting as needing some additional learning supports, I have compiled somethings to keep in mind when determining if a program might be a good match.

The first action item is to think about the approaches to learning that appeal most to you. There are many: Progressive, traditional, project-based, Montessori, Reggio, etc.. Do some research and think about what elements appeal most to you. Hands-on learning? Learning through exploration and asking questions? Structure and routine? Worksheets and homework (make sure to look at the whole program if it goes past early childhood in case you stay on)?

Then compile a list of schools that check most of the boxes for you. I would suggest seeing schools in person if you can as you will learn more.I have found that it is really a gut feeling you get when you walk into a school that tells you the most. You can sense the warmth of a community and what they prioritize when you see it with your own eyes – try to take a peek inside classrooms if possible! You can tell if it’s clean, organized and get a sense of the student work on bulletin boards. Take note of how you feel as you listen and walk around. 

Here are some overarching topics to collect information on:

  • Overall Location, Size and Special Education Supports: What is the commute? What is the size of the school, the class sizes and student-teacher ratios? What types of special education offerings are there? (self contained, SETTS, ICT, related services) Are there any evaluations or testing that needs to be done before your child can access the school and its accommodations?

  • Classroom Structures: What are their approaches to classroom management? How structured are classroom routines? What is their approach to discipline and how do they problem solve and communicate when situations arise? Are they clear about their approach? How are the rooms set up? Does it feel organized, warm and inviting?

  • Accommodations and Modifications: Do they discuss classroom accommodations and modifications? Do they talk about adding visuals, repetition, flexible seating, learning tools, and wanting to meet the needs of individual learners? 

  • Staff + Students: If you are seeing the school in action, do students seem happy and engaged? Are teachers doing prep work in a corner or are they actively engaging with students? What can you tell about the school leader / principal? How well do they seem to know the students? 

  • Social Emotional Learning:  Do they incorporate social emotional learning (SEL), where children are taught explicitly how to navigate social situations and to be productive members of the community? What is the school doing to help develop character and values?

  • Windows + Mirrors: A mirror reflects your own culture and helps you build your identity. A window is a view into someone else’s experience, a resource that offers you a new viewpoint. When schools offer opportunities for windows + mirrors that allows students to feel accepted and to learn about the lives of others. What do you notice about the topics students are learning about? Do you see any evidence of windows + mirrors? What kind of books are displayed in the classrooms and are there diverse characters? 

  • Special Education Supports: What is the special education / IEP team like? Does the principal speak to the special education supports and meeting the needs of all learners?

  • Parent Involvement: What is your sense of how active the parent body is? Does the school seem welcoming to parents? How do they address communication and classroom updates? 

  • Other details to consider: What is lunch like (Read: The Lunchroom)?  How often do they have recess? Do they take class trips? What are the extracurriculars? 

I hope this is helpful. It is difficult to check all of the boxes so think about what matters the most - rank your priorities and use that to create your list of schools. 

Good luck! Reach out to me if you need any help with the process.



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