When my first child went to kindergarten, I admit it was a traumatic event for me. Not only the day of, when I had to wave goodbye and walk away from my timid and glossy-eyed little boy, but all the days leading up to that point — working and stressing and wondering about how my son was going to do. I had every question in the world: Was he going to behave? Would he make friends? Would he be safe? Did I pick the right school? Maybe I should homeschool?
For those of us who have decided to take the public school option and have several schools to choose from, how in the world do you go about choosing which school is best?
This year, Kaitlyn (my third, who has type 1 diabetes) moves up to middle school and my youngest is entering kindergarten. I now feel that I’ve had enough experience as a parent of elementary school children to know what is most important to me in a school, especially when adding type 1 diabetes into the mix.
Teachers, staff, and nurses.
This is by far the most important thing to me when considering an elementary school. It’s a tricky thing to evaluate before you’ve ever met them, but you can get a pretty good idea by visiting the school, talking to friends, and asking a lot of questions. Is there a nurse on site or one who will come to the school multiple times each day? Have the teachers and staff had experience dealing with type 1 diabetes before? Do you get the feeling that the teachers and staff will be patient, nurturing, competent, organized, structured, supportive, communicative? It’s not really a check-the-box type of thing but a feeling you get in your gut about people and whether they’ll be a good fit for your child.
Yes, I’m making this number two on my list. Next to the people who will be caring for my child, this one is almost as important to me. Everything else on this list is secondary compared to these first two, and I’ll tell you why: You’ll be driving to the school all the time. As if twice per day for drop-off and pickup were not enough (for those of us without bus service), you’ll also have concerts, plays, awards ceremonies, class parties, and opportunities to help in the classroom. Oh, and don’t forget about the times that you’ll get calls about a lost lunch, forgotten homework, a pump site change, or more diabetes supplies needed. For multiple children, multiply that by two or three and you can easily see that you’ll be driving back and forth a lot! If you intend to be even slightly involved as a parent, I would really consider choosing a school with a commute less than 10 minutes or so if possible.
Like I said before, the rest of these are important but a little less so. Your child will make new friends while they’re at school, but if he or she starts out with at least one familiar face in the class, that might be nice. It’s also great to have some mom friends you can rely on whose children attend the same school. I have been very fortunate to have had great friends whose kids are in the same school as mine.
Physical education, art, band, choir, drama, science and technology, gifted and talented… all of these programs can be great fun and enrich a child’s experience in school.
Strong PTA or booster program.
Schools depend on these programs to help create a fun and cooperative environment. With the way schools are funded these days, a good booster organization can really make an impact. Consider getting involved!
Choosing a school means asking a lot of tough questions. Our children will spend most of their young lives in school, so we want it to be a good experience. Good luck making your choice and starting your adventure!
Disclaimer: The experiences and suggestions recounted in these articles are not intended as medical advice, and they are not necessarily the “typical” experiences of families with a child who has type 1 diabetes. These situations are unique to the families depicted. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding the treatment of type 1 diabetes and the frequency of blood glucose monitoring. Jen and Kim are real moms of kids with type 1 diabetes and have been compensated for their contributions to this site.