October 17, 2016 - From the Blog
By Live Baltimore's Resident Outreach Manager, Kim Wiggins
It's Open House season.
The days are getting shorter, the air's a little brisker, and pumpkin spice is everywhere. These signs of fall are quickly followed by the private and independent school open house season. Our Way to Stay program has been helping parents with their education decisions for children of all ages (starting at minus 40 weeks) for three years now. We let parents know to keep their options open. We also suggest to put a horse in every race—public zoned, public charter, and independent schools—look at them all.
We recommend different activities for different age children.
Parents of two-year-olds: now is the time to look at independent schools. (Many schools will start taking applications for three-year-olds.)
At independent schools, grades K-5 are usually referred to as the “Lower School.” This is good to know when you are trying to figure out which tour to attend. At independent school tours you can enjoy time with the principal (or head master), coffee, music, and performance by the students. You can talk to the teachers, current students, parents, and alumnae about the school. You can stroll the grounds and visit classrooms.
While you’re visiting, be sure to get information about financial aid.
Many are surprised to learn that families with household incomes in the lower six figures can qualify for financial aid. If you are already paying for daycare, independent schools may not have a tremendous impact on your current budget. When considering what schools you can afford, look at what is included in the tuition and what are mandatory extras; like laptops, activity fees, and books.
The Independent School category includes religious or parochial schools too.
Generally, you don’t have to practice a particular religion to attend these schools. And, if you have visions of a mean nun teaching children in a Catholic school, you are in for a pleasant surprise. (The nun stereotype is long outdated.) Additionally, parochial schools are usually less expensive to attend than secular independent schools.
Some traditional public schools are also holding fall open houses.
Attend these too, but be careful not to compare them apples-to-apples with independent school open houses. Independent schools have large budgets and admissions departments that can concentrate fully on your open house experience.
Open houses are free, but most require pre-registration on the schools’ websites. Find open house dates on social media pages and school websites (for traditional public and charter schools as well) or in this handy guide by Baltimore Fishbowl.