by Robin Layton
As children, we spend most of the year wishing for summer vacation to start. When it finally gets here, poof, it’s gone!
As adults, we can definitely relate to summer fun disappearing in a blink. Suddenly, you have zero time to complete school clothes shopping, dental appointments and eye checkups. In Arizona, parents also have something else to consider … they have the bonus of being able to research and make school choices for their children.
It’s time well spent to learn the differences between public, charter, private, online and homeschool options. For instance, according to Gov. Doug Ducey’s Office of Education, “Arizona state law allows students to apply for admission to any public school, based on available classroom space. The law requires that school districts develop policies regarding open enrollment that may include transportation and that the policies shall be posted on the district’s website and available to the public upon request. Transportation is available for special education students.” So, if you live in one area, but work in another and you prefer the schools where you work, you can seek admission to that school district.
Charter schools are defined by the Office of Education as “tuition free public schools that were established to provide additional choices to families for learning environments that would improve student achievement. Most public charter schools are operated independent of local school districts by either non-profit or for-profit entities, although school districts may also sponsor charter schools.”
According to the Arizona Charter Schools Association, charters are public schools that must follow the open enrollment laws. So, a charter cannot turn away a child for low test scores or disabilities. The association does mention that many charter schools have waitlists and recommends checking deadlines and enrollment policies.
If you prefer to send your child to a private school, assistance through scholarships maybe available. Most of them are based on financial need, but you can find the right one for your family through the many Arizona school tuition organizations. Learn more at education.azgovernor.gov/edu/arizona-school-choice.
Online instruction is also available to meet the unique needs of your child. Arizona is a national leader in providing learning opportunities for its students, according to the Office of Education. To learn more, visit inacol.org.
Arizona recognizes home schooling options and recommends visiting ade.az.gov/resources/hs.asp to contact your county officials about your area’s specific home schooling requirements.
SCHOOL CHOICE CONSIDERATIONS
Learning Style: Find a school that best fits your child’s learning style or interests. Knowing if you’re looking for a specific type of instructional program will help focus your search.
Programs: The school should have the types of programs (sports, art, music, etc.) that are the most meaningful to your child.
Class Size: Class size and student teacher ratios can have an impact on student learning, this may be a factor to consider. On the other hand, small schools can also have their limitations to resources and programs.
Grades Served: If grade configuration is important to you and/or your child then determine whether the school is a good match (K-6, K-8, etc.) for your expectations.
Performance: The state annually grades all of Arizona’s public schools, district and charter. The letter grades, which range from A to F, can serve as a guide to how students perform on standardized tests.
Culture: Every campus has a unique culture. Evaluate whether the school maintains a welcoming and safe environment, which should include high expectations for learning.
Source: Arizona Charter Schools Association
GETTING CHILDREN READY TO FACE THE SCHOOL DAZE!
Set up a bedtime and wake-up routine in advance. If you can, try starting these new routines about two weeks in advance of the first day.
Get to know the teachers. It’s hard during all of the open houses, orientations and meet-and-greet options to spend quality one-on-one time with your kid’s teachers. If you can take a few minutes before or after school to chat one-on-one, everyone can benefit.
Plan healthy lunches and snacks. By planning meals at home, you are more likely to make healthy choices for your children during the school day. Protein-rich snacks and lunches, with fruits and vegetables, and other yummy wholesome items will make sure your kids have the right brainpower and energy to tackle their school days.
Organize clothing. We’ve all been there – morning meltdown. Just what are they going to wear? Once you’ve donated the clothes your kids have outgrown, take a few more minutes to carefully organize what is left. From there you can decide what you need more of before school starts.
Set up a central staging area in your home. The notoriously missing shoe, backpack, or textbook…it always happens. By choosing a clutter-free area of the house as a central housing hub for all things school-related, including lunches and more, you will save yourself precious time and frustration in the mornings.
Update medical records. Provide teachers and school administrators with a complete list of any medical concerns or medications they will need to know about your child, including allergies. Also make sure all emergency contacts are updated and notified they are on the emergency call list.
Talk about bullying. Approximately one in three children experience bullying at some point during their school career. By talking with your children, you can ensure they know how to properly treat their classmates, teachers and administrators. You can talk about when it is appropriate to speak up if they see bullying happening. And you can make absolutely sure your child knows you will support them if they come to you with information that they are being bullied.
THE SUPE SAYS
Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Joe Howard offers some advice for getting ready for the new school year:
1) Make sure you’ve had a great summer. Whether that’s a staycation (what could be better than Prescott?) or some time away, that time together does more for our kids than you may know.
2) A family culture of reading in the summer and throughout the school year is worth a million. Read to your littles every single night. As they get more independent, help your kids to find a favorite series or author and tout reading as something that we do for ourselves. Make reading time the reward that it truly is. Model it by showing your own reading time and do something for yourself: create a consistent family reading time.
3) Make school shopping fun, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Start early so that it’s not time-crunched. Check out thrift stores, too, for clothes. Make the school supply shopping piece something fun and tie-in a nice dinner out or ice-cream stop with the outing.
4) Create a family culture in which each night after school, you talk about the “good things” in your day and give “affirmations” to each other with compliments to all in the family. Put this in place during the summer so that it is habit during the busy times of the school year. Dinner is a great time.
5) Create a “growth mindset” family culture. Growth mindset teaches us real life concepts like it’s OK to try new things and not be good at them right away. It’s OK to fail if you are finding the lessons in it and getting better. It is not OK to beat yourself up every time you are not perfect. This blocks you from lessons that you could be learning. Growth mindset also talks about things like “effort” and “grit” rather than saying things like “you are smart.” Instead, say things like, “Wow, look what your hard work did for you. What an effort!” (Keep in mind that this is coming from a 23-year educator who just watched his only two kids graduate from Prescott High School!)
Have a great school year!