Now that the calendar reads 2014, families are seriously beginning to look at their options for next fall. This is particularly true for families with children entering Kindergarten and Grade 8, but also for those with children at different ages. You will have seen deadlines published for different programs within the district, so you know that it is quickly becoming decision time.
I am so proud that I can confidently say that every school is a good school in West Vancouver. With all we see in the media, particularly coming out of the United States, about the disparity between schools within communities, it is wonderful to be able to reassure families that each and every one of our schools is a quality school. I know some people immediately look at data like the Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) and Government Program Exam results for guidance, and while they provide a small sliver of information, there is very little difference in results across the district. The truth is that all of our elementary and high schools are among the top performing in the province.
So, if test scores aren’t the only way to select a school, what do I recommend to the many parents who ask me each year? I first tell them to start with their local school. Even with all the choice available, most families will choose to attend their local elementary and secondary school. The obvious advantage is that this school is usually within walking distance, and your child already has a social network with many of the students going to this school.
But I think it is also valuable to become familiar with specialty programs offered at other schools within the district. From Montessori and International Baccalaureate starting in Kindergarten, to sports academies starting in Grade 8, to Advanced Placement and Trade Certification programs in the senior grades, there have never been more enrichment options for students. A quick web search through the district site and school sites can familiarize you with the exciting range of options that are now available. For some students, a unique program can make a powerful connection for them between school and their learning.
It is also well worth visiting schools – our principals and staff are very giving of their time and always happy to take you on a tour and answer your questions. And don’t hesitate to ask fellow parents about their experiences when you’re at the soccer field, music practice or other social gatherings. Building a relationship with your child’s school before your child arrives as a student can help ensure a smooth transition.
So while I encourage you to be diligent in maximizing your child’s individual potential, there’s no need to go over the top. I have met parents who have visited a dozen schools and actually become more confused; do your research, but then trust your instincts. There are no poor choices when it comes to public schools in West Vancouver.
And to all of you who are proud of your relationships with our district, tell your friends, influence the conversation. Our students, teachers and parents are our greatest advocates and I encourage you to share the West Vancouver public school success story whenever you have the opportunity.
And finally, while I may not be able to assist with all of your questions on this topic, if you email me I promise to find you the information you need.