Open Enrollment and You – A Guide to Choosing Your Kindergarten Path

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If you are a parent of a preschooler, then you know you’re less than year away from the first day of Kindergarten. Fall is the beginning of Open Enrollment in public schools with applications already being accepted for the 2019-20 school year. Now is a great time to start investigating your options.

open enrollmentOpen enrollment in Arizona means that you are not limited by your home address in joining a public school. As a matter of fact, a good chunk of each public school in the valley is made up of students from out-of-bounds areas. If you’re a resident of Scottsdale, you can choose to stay in your “home” school, take your family to another Scottsdale School or to a Paradise Valley, Cave Creek, Tempe or other district school.

(And of course, the Valley offers an abundance of religious, charter, private and independent options to choose from. We can save discussing those choices for another time).

If this is your first child, you may a have a few questions. Here are some basic answers to help you in your search.

What are the advantages of Open Enrolling?

The main advantage to Open Enrollment is finding a school that fits your family’s life and learning goals. You can choose a school physically closer to your home, extended family, or workplace than your assigned school. Maybe a school has smaller class sizes or offers more experiences. Different schools have specialties, and one program might better support your child’s talents and needs. Some specialize in Spanish or Mandarin immersion programs. Others offer early violin lessons. Whatever your choice, it is free and available to you if you apply early.

What are the disadvantages to Open Enrollment?

First off, you may be far away from bus stops. This will make you more reliant on aftercare programs or require you to pick up your child in person. You also may have a child whose friends live far away making play dates a drive. This can also lead to a street full of children going in a dozen different directions for school.

Which School is THE BEST?

The short answer is there is no “best” school. Each has its own take on leadership, technology, special offerings, facilities, and kindergarten programs. What is right for my child isn’t necessarily the best fit for yours.  

Come up with a list of what is important to you. 

  • Is it test scores, leadership goals, technology offerings, or STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) programs? 
  • Will your child need Gifted or Special Education programs?
  • Do you want more rigor or play?
  • What is their PTO/APT like (and do they raise enough funds to support learning in the school)?
  • How about the social aspect? Are there lots of opportunities to meet and interact with other families?

Reach out and ask the school’s principal. Find current parents to get their impressions. Read reviews (with a grain of salt) on Greatschools.com and Yelp.com. 

Can I visit the schools beforehand?

Yes! My favorite part of my own Kindergarten search last year was schools tours. This gives you a change to meet the principal, see classrooms and facilities, and view the faculty in action. Some schools will give you a one-on-one tour or in small groups. Some schools have specific days where hoards of parents descend on the school in large tours. Either way, get yourself inside the walls and see for yourself what each school has to offer.

Each school has its own policy for tours. To find out dates, or how to schedule a meeting with a principal, you must contact each school. 

When can I start applying for Open Enrollment?

Scottsdale Schools has already begun to accept early applications.  Paradise Valley is also in the middle of accepting applications with decisions beginning in December.  Cave Creek Schools open enroll all year.  Inquiries for Tempe Schools can be made here.

Best of luck and have fun!!!

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