When Educational Options Abound, Instinct Is Key

While the abundance of educational options offers plenty of pathways in Colorado, it also lends for a fair amount of stress for those looking to find their perfect school.

This is even more notable for newcomers to Colorado, where the public school district’s open enrollment policy gives students and families the choice to choose between traditional and charter schools, all within the same system. That’s not even taking into account the myriad private school options that also exist. A new student could sign up for a facility that teaches ancient languages, one that focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) or a host of other specialties.

“For many of our families who are relocating, finding the right school is the most important piece in their decision,” said Susan Boyle, director of admissions and marketing for Boulder Country Day School, a private K-8 school that stresses community, social/emotional learning and broad curriculum. “They’ll choose their new neighborhood accordingly.”

While the weight of that decision may seem, on its surface, overwhelming, Boyle and other educators say the choice really rests on basic principles, values and, to a degree, gut instinct. Each student and each family is unique, and finding the right school boils down to finding a good match.

“What we feel is most important is for any family to check in with themselves and assess their values. When they tour a school, they’re looking for specific attributes,” Boyle said. “[Colorado] has an incredible array of schools and it’s important for a family to do research and make direct contact.”

Boyle said that the most common criteria when it comes to choosing the right school are a combination of academic, social and geographic concerns. Standards like school ratings, test scores and graduation rates are easy guideposts, but more intangible elements like a teacher’s dynamic in the classroom or the availability of counselors and extracurricular activities can also be critical.

“Things to consider are the school culture and sense of community, especially for families who relocating,”
she said. “What are the teacher to student ratios? What are the academic offerings, the extra-curricular offerings, the character and social/emotional programming? How does the school differentiate learning for students with different needs?”

While the subject isn’t always easy to consider, the current process of choosing a school should also take campus security into account, she added.

For private schools in particular, metrics for making a judgement can also include a facility’s fiscal soundness, its school government and its rating by outside institutions. Boulder Country Day School, for example, enrolls less than 400 students and is one of the few private schools in the area to be accredited with the Association of Colorado Independent Schools.

Such ratings, statistics and facts are critical for an incoming family looking to make a decision about their child’s future education. But Boyle added that meeting the teachers, staff and administrators and touring the building itself can lend for the most decisive factor.

“I always suggest that families trust their gut,” she said.

> Boulder Country Day School, 4820 Nautilus Court North, Boulder, 303.527.4931, bouldercountryday.org

By Adam Goldstein