Tips for Choosing a New School

Looking for a new school for your child can be as overwhelming as buying a new home. Whether looking at public or private schools, there are several ideas to consider when finding the right fit for your child and your family.

Take a Tour of the School
When looking for a new home you don’t just drive by each home, likewise don’t just just drive by potential schools. Call and arrange to tour the school and observe a classroom. You want to see students who are genuinely engaged, not wasting time or bored. Schools should be relatively noisy places, it’s okay for classrooms to have talking and movement as long it is directed toward a learning goal. Take time to observe how teachers and administrators interact with the students and vice versa. Notice if student work is on display, no matter the grade level, it means that place is about kids and their work.

Look for a Place Where You Feel Welcome
Good schools should welcome parents as volunteers and visitors. The principal should be someone you feel comfortable talking with if there’s a problem. Ask about parent volunteer opportunities available throughout the school year.

Think Long Term
Remember your first-grader will be heading to middle school before you know it. Unless you plan on moving soon, also check out the middle and high schools in the district. If the upper-level schools in your prospective district are about kids doing great work, they’ll likely be a good fit if you like the elementary school.

Visit the School Community
Go to a school board meeting for information about the district. Notice if parents there because their children are being honored or are they there because of a problem? Likewise, attend a PTA or PTO meeting and talk with the parents there. Most parents are open to share school challenges and successes. Also consider the makeup of the students. Chances are if you choose a neighborhood school, you’ll find some similarities between your kids and their classmates, because there are probably similarities between you and your neighbors. Yet a school that has a diverse student body also offers benefits. Even if the school isn’t as diverse as you would like, after-school activities like sports and music give them a chance to interact with students from different backgrounds.

No matter how wonderful the school is, it’s natural to have some butterflies on the first day in a new school. Just like it takes time for a new house to feel like home, it takes time for kids to settle into a new school.


Proximity to Good Schools equals to Most Important Amenity

rancho solano school photoAccording to the National Association of Realtors ®, “Of all the local neighborhood amenities that can influence a buyer’s decision to purchase a home, proximity to good quality schools is one of the most influential.”

Homes in proximity to good schools have higher property values, plain and simple. Homes in neighborhoods with highly-rated public schools often are priced higher than homes that are not.  Home buyers seek out good schools, which increase property values for everyone.  Whether or not you have children, or your children are no longer school-aged, good schools in good school districts are an amenity that any parent wants, which strengthens and increases the value of the homes in those neighborhoods.

The good news for those seeking to buy or sell homes in the Northeast Valley, including Paradise Valley, North Scottsdale and Fountain Hills, is these high-performing school districts featuring “good schools” are already in place.  The schools in Northeast Valley are part of the Paradise Valley Unified School District, the Scottsdale Unified School District and Fountain Hills Unified School District.   While some of these schools permit open enrollment, if a particular school is not accepting new students, residing in that school’s zoned neighborhood may be required before your student may be enrolled.

While I can help you narrow down your school choices when searching for your next home, you can also get started researching these districts.  Websites such as break down the test scores as well as the community ratings of each school district, as well as the schools themselves.  Another website,, ranks the schools using criteria such as student to teacher ratio and test scores.  Then you can rest assured that your decision to buy a home, if based on proximity to a good school is important, is a sound one.

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Paradise Valley Unified School District

Fireside elementary schoolParadise Valley Unified School District is the seventh-largest school district in Arizona, with 31 elementary schools, eight middle schools and six high schools.  This district’s schools are located within an 98-mile area in Phoenix and North Scottsdale, from 7th Avenue east to Pima Road, from Jomax Road south to Northern Avenue.  Given the large size of the district, the tax base for the schools is larger.  The 2014 Auditor General’s report indicates that PVUSD schools outperform the state average and the district average for the percent of funds spend in the classroom.

PVUSD is also known for many programs, some of which are exclusive to this district.  For example, four different elementary schools offer gifted preschool programs:  Fireside, Desert Trails, Desert Cove and North Ranch elementary schools.  These accelerated curriculum and tuition-based programs target 4-year old students who have been identified as gifted on an IQ test.

Foreign language immersion is featured at two different schools in Paradise Valley Unified.  Sandpiper Elementary focuses on Spanish immersion, while Whispering Wind Academy centers on Mandarin immersion.  Three schools offer a K-12 IB (International Baccalaureate) program:  Quail Run Elementary, Vista Verde Middle School and North Canyon High School.  The popular CREST (Center for Research, Engineering, Science and Technology) program is offered at Paradise Valley High School.

Finally, for those fifth-twelfth grade students who are interested in focusing on the performing and visual arts, the North Valley Arts Academy is offered at Desert Cove Elementary, Shea Middle School and Shadow Mountain High.  This program combines the arts with a rigorous academic curriculum.

Even if you don’t live within the PVUSD boundaries, open enrollment gives your student an opportunity to attend any of the schools.  Applications are typically accepted in the district office until January 21st of the previous school year, with Early Bird applications due by December 1st.