by Dalia Tole
Choosing the right school for your child is a very personal decision. Ask your friends and neighbors, and you will likely receive overwhelmingly positive feedback on their children’s school. In reality, there is no “best school in town,” only one that is the best fit for your child and your family.
When you are choosing a school for your child, identifying your priorities will help narrow down the field. So focus on what you really want and what would be a deal-breaker. Keep in mind, many private schools in the Hoboken area have two to three times more applicants than spots, so if you want to go only the private route, you should plan on applying to multiple schools.
• How many hours of school is ideal for your child? School day for the Hoboken Public preschool is six hours long (mandated by DoE). However, some private schools typically have a half day program (about 3 hours) for the younger grades.
• Can you afford private school tuition? Annual tuitions for private schools in Hoboken can be upwards of $7,000-9,000 for half day programs (Montessori schools cost up to $10,000) and $13,000-15,000 for full day programs (about $18,000 for a Montessori). Some financial aid and scholarships may be available. You should prioritize saving for your own retirement, your children’s college education, etc. above private preschool and elementary school.
• Is proximity to your home important? For example, if you live downtown and take the PATH to work, but the school is uptown, you may add up to 30 minutes to your commute. The public program cannot guarantee placement in your preferred choice of school.
• How many hours of after school care do you need? Most schools have an after care program (fees vary). An exception is Stevens Cooperative, which does not have after care for 2 and 3 year olds, but free after-care for 4s-8th grade. A few provide after school care till 7 p.m.
• Do you plan to pack lunch for your child? If your child has food allergies, dietary restrictions or other reasons you want to pack a daily lunch, be aware that some programs like HOPES and Miles Square in the Rue building provide meals and don’t allow outside foods.
• Do you have a preference for Montessori, Progressive Education or another special curriculum or philosophy?
• Do you want the school to run through higher grades (e.g. middle school instead of elementary or preschool)? Hoboken Catholic, Mustard Seed, and Stevens Cooperative run through 8th grade. All Saints will be adding 8th grade in 2011. The Hudson School services grades 5-12.
• How involved do you want to be in your child’s school on a daily basis? A high level of parent participation is required in certain co-operative schools such as Stevens.
• What is the sibling policy? Many schools offer preferential admission to siblings, as well as tuition discounts. Stevens does not offer a discount.
• Will your child make the school age cut-off? Some private schools have a September 1 cutoff, others are as late as November 1 (refer to the HFA September newsletter). The cutoff for Stevens’ 2s program is June 1.
• What role should religion play in your child’s education? Schools such as Hoboken Catholic Academy, Mustard Seed and Kaplan Cooperative have stated mission statements that incorporate religion into their curriculum. All Saints does not espouse a particular religious doctrine but instead emphasizes spirituality.
• Do classrooms have computers? Miles Square classrooms do not have computers.
• What is the teacher to student ratio? The maximum class size in most private and public schools is 15-16 students per class, with one teacher and one assistant teacher. HOPES has an additional teaching assistant in some classrooms. The maximum class size at Mustard Seed is 22.
• Does the school offer special education or remedial classes for children who need them? Are the classes and restrooms accessible? Many schools do not have elevators.
• What does the school do to help develop character and citizenship? For example, All Saints actively incorporates philanthropy and even younger students participate in their many service programs.
• Where do graduates pursue their higher studies? Acceptance to reputable high schools and colleges often indicate the educational excellence of the previous schools. Stevens Cooperative and Mustard Seed, amongst others, publish a list of schools and colleges their graduates have attended.
• How long do you plan to live in Hoboken? Private school contracts become binding in the spring, meaning the entire amount becomes due even if you relocate and decide not to attend.
In addition, various websites, including the U.S. Department of Education have tips on how to choose the right school.
It all kicks off with the HFA All Schools Open House on October 5. This exclusive event offers parents of would-be students the unique opportunity to see and compare all local schools at a single venue. The event is free to Hoboken Family Alliance members.
This article was published in HFA’s October 2010 newsletter.