Letter, Opinion

3 things parents don’t want to miss for next school year

Dear Editor,

Yes, it’s January, not June, and you may feel like you’re finally settling into a routine during a challenging school year. But as the saying goes, “The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” Despite the disruptions of Covid-19, January is the ideal time to check in with your child about your school choice and start planning for the 2020-2021 school year.

That’s why National School Choice Week is the last week of January.

Each year, the public awareness effort features thousands of independently-planned community activities that help parents in Killington, Woodstock, Rutland, Brandon, Ludlow and every town between and across the nation learn more about school choices.

As families and teachers in Vermont celebrate the week with 69 virtual events and activities, don’t miss doing these three things to start planning now for an extraordinary school year:

First, talk to your child. You see your child every day and know what makes them happy, nervous, or inspired. Make time to speak with your child about their current school experience. What are they learning? What would they change? What are they doing when they feel happiest?

If you talk to other parents about their school choice, remember: What’s important to you and your child in a school may be different than what’s important to your neighbor—and that’s okay. One family may prioritize a school’s location; another may consider a school’s language offerings or extracurriculars more important. Be confident in what matters most to you and your child in a school.

Second, know your options.  You might know your child better than anyone else, but you may not know all the school options in your area. Here in Vermont, there are a variety of educational options to attend including: traditional public schools with flexible open enrollment, magnet schools, online academies, private schools, ski academies and homeschooling. Students in specific Vermont towns (a.k.a. school choice towns) are eligible for a tuitioning program, which funds their attendance at nonreligious public or private schools outside their communities.

Third, find and celebrate your community.  Even if you’re not sure a school is for you, learning more via a call or visit may surprise you. Look for what seems to motivate the students and teachers. Is it an environment you could see your child thriving in?

Or, maybe you already love your current school and plan to stay.  If so, use this time and your child’s feedback to make a simple plan to truly invest in your school choice. Maybe you’ll volunteer at the school once a month. Maybe you’ll supplement classroom learning with monthly museum trips, or  online classes to help your child’s fill in their weak spots.

Use School Choice Week to spread positivity about your school or send a thank you note to a teacher. Spreading positivity can start a domino effect, reminding teachers of their love for education and inspiring other parents to be more engaged.

A child’s learning environment is one of the single-biggest influencers of their life, and it’s worth putting in the time to find a great school fit. Whether it’s finding a new school or showering your current school with love, now is the time to start deciding what school choices to make next.

Andrew R. Campanella, president of National School Choice Week

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