Moving With Kids? How to Choose a Great School Near Your New Home
There are many factors to consider when searching for your dream home, including cost, number of bedrooms, layout and neighbourhood. But if you have children—or plan to someday soon—you need to think about another important selling feature: schools.
After all, you don't want to buy a house only to discover the local schools don't get a passing grade. Here are a few tips to help you find the right school for your children, whether you're moving across town or to the other side of the country.
Find the perfect school with REALTOR.ca's neighbourhood information
Home buyers can access comprehensive school catchment information for more than 40 cities across Canada while looking at property listings on REALTOR.ca. You can set the online filters for public, private, elementary, high school, English or French schools.
Do your homework
Most provinces offer online directories of school boards and individual schools, which can be useful for learning about class sizes, student-teacher ratios and whether they can accommodate children with special needs. Just as you would research a hotel before going on vacation, you'll want to read what others have to say about a given school. Many parents rate schools online, based on teacher quality, curriculums and enrichment programs.
For academic information, the Fraser Institute's handy tool, CompareSchoolRankings.org, provides detailed school-by-school performance reports. In addition, don't forget to scroll through a school's social media feed, which can yield a wealth of great information, such as photos and newsletters.
Talk to your future neighbours
Take a walk through your prospective neighbourhood and check out the area's parks and community centres. Don't be afraid to approach parents pushing kids on a swing or watching their child's swimming lesson. Strike up a friendly conversation and tell them you're thinking about moving to the neighbourhood. Ask about schools in the area and if they have any advice for choosing the right one for your children. Find out whether the local schools encourage parent volunteers or how many field trips are organized each year.
Map out the commute
Is a home within walking distance of the school at the top of your priority list? Will your children need a drive twice a day? Call the school board to find out if they offer bus services or if you'll be juggling carpool schedules as part of your morning routine. If you have older children, see if public transportation is an option by mapping out possible bus, subway or streetcar routes.
Visit the schools
Make an appointment with the principal to tour each school you're interested in and arrive with a list of questions, such as whether special programs are offered. Ask to see classes in progress, along with the facilities and grounds, to help you evaluate which school works best for your children. If your children are athletic, ask about extracurricular sports teams; if they're artistic, inquire about their music, arts or drama programs. Can't go in person? Set up phone calls with the principal, administration and ideally the teachers who'll be teaching your children.
Armed with all this information, you'll get top marks in your housing search.